November 14, 2013
An asylum seeker who was moved off Nauru to give birth is being locked up for 18 hours a day in a detention centre in Brisbane while her week-old baby remains in hospital with respiratory problems.
The case of Latifa, a 31-year-old woman of the persecuted Rohingya people of Myanmar, has shocked churches and refugee advocates.
She was separated from her baby on Sunday, four days after a caesarean delivery, and has since been allowed to visit him only between 10am and 4pm in Brisbane’s Mater Hospital. The boy, named Farus, has respiratory problems and needs round-the-clock medical care.
Latifa is confined to the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation, 20 minutes away, where her husband and two children, four and seven, are being held.
Latifa’s husband, Niza, is not allowed to visit the child at all, according to people in daily contact with the family.
Misha Coleman, a qualified midwife and executive officer of the Churches Refugee Taskforce, said the separation of mother and child marked a worrying development in the Abbott government’s hardline asylum seeker policy. ”As a midwife this is the most diabolical situation for a mother and a newborn one could imagine,” she said.
Ms Coleman said she had not heard of mothers being separated in this way. ”Maybe back in the Howard days but not since then have babies been separated from their mothers. I can’t see any reason why this woman should be kept from her sick baby.”
Sophie Peer, campaign director of child refugee advocacy group ChilOut said: ”It is perfectly normal for women to be sent back into detention with their baby after three or four days – that happens all the time in Darwin Hospital. But to be moved separately from your child is outrageous.
”The system can accommodate this situation. Any room in the hospital could be designated as a place of detention.”
Fairfax Media revealed in October that Latifa, who spent nearly 10 years in a refugee camp in Malaysia, was on Nauru and would give birth there under the government’s offshore policy, despite women regularly being removed to Darwin from Christmas Island in the past.
Earlier scans had indicated she was carrying twins but it was discovered when she arrived in Brisbane she was carrying one child.