Protesters have surrounded exit points at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane in a bid to prevent immigration officials from transferring a baby.
While a spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said nothing has changed and the Department was still negotiating with the hospital about one-year-old baby Asha, refugee advocates said the girl’s mother was told their relocation was imminent.
Baby Asha was being treated in Brisbane for injuries after she was accidentally burnt by boiling water in a tent on Nauru in January.
Doctors at the hospital have refused to release her until a suitable home environment is found.
Demonstrators have been camping outside the hospital in support of doctors and the child, who faces the possibility of being returned to the Nauru immigration processing centre with her parents.
At least 200 protesters were at the hospital and some have blocked vehicles to check the child was not inside.
Refugee advocates said it appeared security guards employed by the Department of Immigration were gearing up to move an asylum seeker baby and her mother from the hospital.
However, Queensland Health said the child will remain in the hospital at least overnight and have asked protestors to respect visitors to the hospital.
Natasha Blucher, who is an advocate for the family and the baby, said the mother told her two immigration officers visited her on Saturday morning and told her she would be leaving later in the day.
She said the mother told her she would be taken by plain-clothed security officers, who were waiting at the hospital.
“She told me she didn’t know where she would be going because they wouldn’t tell her,” Ms Blucher said.
“I think that’s quite a scary thing for somebody with a little baby to know that people have the power to take you somewhere and that you have no right to know where that is.”
Officials ‘prohibit all access’ to baby Asha’s mother
Advocates for the family said officials have since prevented further contact with the woman.
“I rang back again and was told by the nurses that Serco have said she’s not receiving any phone calls now and she’s … not able to speak to anybody,” Ms Blucher said.
“So I think that’s concerning because now we don’t know what is happening inside the hospital.”
Human Right Law Centre’s director of advocacy, Daniel Webb, said they tried to speak to the child’s mother over the phone but “access was refused”.
“When we called, we were advised by a Serco guard that they have been directed by Border Force to prohibit all access today,” he said in a statement.
“At this time we can’t contact our client — Asha’s mother — and she can’t contact us.”
Asha is one of a group of 267 people, including more than 30 babies, who could be sent back to Nauru after the High Court threw out a challenge to the Government’s offshore detention network earlier this month.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Health Minister Cameron Dick have previously voiced support for hospital staff.