Australia defends strict immigration policy

Canberra, Feb 15 (IANS) Faced with the demand to allow a baby to remain in the country, the Treasurer of Australia, Scott Morrison, on Monday defended the government’s strict policy of confining asylum seekers in third countries.

Morrison’s statement come after a Brisbane hospital staff refused to discharge a one-year-old girl due to the risk of her being returned to an immigration detention centre in Nauru, EFE news reported.

The girl was brought to the hospital, along with her parents, in January from the detention centre in the Pacific to have her burns treated and from which she has already recovered.

Dozens of people gathered in front of the hospital over the weekend to demand this family be allowed to remain in the country.

However, Morrison said, the current policy of confining immigrants in detention centres in third countries has helped stem the flow of boats carrying people trying to reach Australian shores illegally, and that this policy must be retained.

“The risk of abandoning the policy in any way, shape or form is basically sending an invitation to resume this traffic,” Morrison said.

The Australian government sends illegal immigrants, who are intercepted before they reach the country, to detention centres, including one on Manus island in Papua New Guinea and another in Nauru, and process their requests for asylum from there.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has reported children detained in these facilities are victims of sexual and physical abuse, self-mutilation, suffer from mental problems and do not have access to adequate medical care.

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