These are the innocent faces of Australia’s strict offshore asylum seeker policy — who, after starting life with uncertain futures, now have a shot at a normal life in Australia.
The photos, revealed by Fairfax Media today, follow yesterday’s announcement that 31 babies born to asylum seeker parents will be allowed to remain on Australian soil, rather than being sent to Nauru.
The surprise announcement by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is the result of a one-off, secret deal struck by crossbencher Ricky Muir, Fairfax reports.
Asylum seeker advocates have welcomed the move, which was announced yesterday afternoon just before a legal bid on behalf of 25 of the babies’ families failed in court — but they warn it’s not all good news.
The deal was made during negotiations about significant changes to asylum seeker law — which have raised concerns among advocates — including the reintroduction of temporary protection visas.
Mr Morrison yesterday emphasised that asylum seekers found to be refugees would still not be granted permanent protection visas, but would be granted temporary protection visas or safe haven enterprise visas.
Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison.
He also said pregnant asylum seekers who have not yet given birth will also be “returned to Nauru, with their babies, at an appropriate time.”
The deal will extent to the immediately family members of the 31 babies, Mr Morrison said.
“Along with those 31 babies, I am also allowing their immediate family members to have their protection claims assessed in Australia,” he added. “This includes their mothers, fathers and siblings. That is, around 80 family members.”
In October the Federal Court ruled that baby Ferouz – a baby born to an asylum seeker mother in Brisbane’s Mater hospital – was not entitled to apply for protection visa despite having an Australian birth certificate.
At the time, it was seen as a test case for more than 100 babies born in Australia to asylum seeker parents.
Law firm Maurice Blackburn, who represented baby Ferouz, told the Age today it welcomed the decision.
Baby Ferouz and his mother Latifar.
“Maurice Blackburn took this case on because of our belief that these babies were entitled to have their claims for refugee status considered, and that they should not be taken away, to languish in detention in Nauru,” a spokeswoman said.
“Importantly, these babies and their families have only cleared the first hurdle – they still need to have their applications for refugee status considered.
“However, they at least now have that right and do not face imminent removal to Nauru.”