Around the clock for over a week, protesters have stood watch outside Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.
Until now, the number gathered outside had been there to convince the federal government to reconsider their stance on deporting the refugee Baby Asha to Nauru.
Tonight, after refugee advocates said Department of Immigration guards were gearing up to remove the baby from the hospital, the protest group adopted the more practical interpretation of ‘standing watch’, and actively surrounded the hospital’s exit points.
As word spread, numbers on-site swelled. ABC reports that a handful of protesters ballooned to over 200.
— Jorge Branco (@JorgeBrancoBNE) February 20, 2016
— Chay Neal (@ChayNeal) February 20, 2016
— Rohan Salmond (@RJSalmond) February 20, 2016
— Abraham O’Neill (@AbeONeill) February 20, 2016
Natasha Blucher, who has been in close contact with Asha’s family as an advocate, says the child’s mother was informed by immigration officials Asha would be taken from the hospital today.
Since then, Asha’s mother was apparently told the hospital wouldn’t be discharging her child; Blucher has been unable to contact her since then.
She told Brisbane Times her “concern is because they’re holding her incommunicado, it could be part of that transfer process but it could also be just to deny her the right to speak to people who are providing support to her.”
Queensland Health also said they don’t believe the child will be removed in the immediate future.
We understand baby Asha will remain in LCCH overnight at least. We ask those outside the hospital to respect other patients & staff.
— Queensland Health (@qldhealthnews) February 20, 2016
Regardless, the confusion seems to have only reinvigorated the protests, with increased numbers planning to stay through the night. Protesters have also been gifted with pizzas by donors elsewhere, in an attempt to sustain the group on-site.
— Alycia Gawthorne (@AlyciaGawthorne) February 20, 2016
The latest developments come after hospital staff refused to release the baby over fears the government would place her in detention.
Darwin-born Asha was brought back to Australian shores for medical treatment after suffering accidental burns while in detention with her Nepalese asylum-seeking parents.
We’ll update this story as it develops.