Last month I travelled with a colleague to Christmas Island to meet with asylum seekers who have given birth to children since arriving in Australia. These are people who arrived after 19 July 2013, when the Rudd government changed the law to classify anybody who comes to Australia by boat after this time as an “unauthorised maritime arrival” (UMA).
UMAs cannot apply for protection in Australia under the United Nations refugee convention or complimentary domestic instruments. Furthermore, regardless of whether they are found to be refugees, they cannot be settled in Australia and they must be taken to a regional processing centre – currently either in Nauru or on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea; possibly soon Cambodia.
The Abbott government recently began transferring families with young children, including Australian-born babies, to Nauru.
As their lawyers, we argue that there is no legal basis for the transfer of these infants as babies born in Australia are not UMAs.
Not surprisingly, the Abbott government disagrees with us, and we’re taking the department of immigration and border protection to court over the issue. Until the court has had an opportunity to consider the correct status of these newborns, we argue that the government must hold off on transferring these Australian-born babies to Nauru or Manus Island.