SYDNEY (AFP) – Lawyers Thursday said they will urgently appeal a court decision that a baby born in Australia to asylum-seeker parents is not entitled to refugee status, with the fate of 100 other children resting on the outcome.
Federal Court Judge Michael Jarrett on Wednesday ruled in favour of the government that baby boy Ferouz was an “unlawful maritime arrival”, despite being born in Brisbane’s Mater Hospital last year.
The birth came after his mother, from Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya minority and who arrived by boat, was transferred from a detention camp on the Pacific state of Nauru due to concerns about her pregnancy.
Since July 2013 Australia has denied asylum-seekers arriving by boat resettlement in this country, sending them instead to camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
“All they have continued to seek for Ferouz is a fair go,” Maurice Blackburn Lawyers’ Murray Watt said of the baby’s parents.
“Ferouz was born in Brisbane and has a Queensland birth certificate, and we remain firmly of the view that on that basis he should have the right to seek protection in Australia.”
The decision means Ferouz is unable to apply for a protection visa and is expected to be transferred with his mother to Nauru and a camp at the centre of allegations this month of sexual misconduct and abuse against women and children.
Around 100 other babies are in a similar situation with their fate resting on the landmark case.
“As in the case of Ferouz, we will be urgently filing applications on behalf of the 100 other babies we act for, in response to this decision and will request that none of these babies be transferred offshore until the outcome of Ferouz’s appeal is known,” Watt added.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison welcomed the decision.
“It has always been the intention of successive governments that children born to illegal maritime arrivals, are taken to have the same status as their parents,” he said.
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, an independent organisation that works to assist the disadvantaged, said it was “manifestly unjust” that a baby born in Australia be denied the same rights and freedoms as other Australian babies.
“The decision could see baby Ferouz and almost 100 babies just like him relegated to life in detention on Nauru in horrific conditions,” it said. “Some 80 per cent of paediatricians, along with the Australian Medical Association, believe that mandatory detention of children is a form of abuse.”
Canberra’s immigration policy is designed to stop asylum-seekers from using people-smugglers to bring them to Australia by boat, a practice which has resulted in the drowning deaths of hundreds of people over the years.