Refugee Parent Called By Government To Leave Child Alone In Australian Detention Centre


This week the Guardian newspaper published an article reporting the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers within the Naru detention centre, as parents are asked to leave their under age children alone in detention camps whilst they receive critical medical treatment overseas. Those claims are epitomized through the case  of Fatemeh, a mother and Iranian refugee, aged 53 and her 16 year old son. Fatemeh needs a lifesaving heart surgery which is only accessible through the hospital at Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. However in order to receive this treatment the Australian government has dictated that she must leave her sixteen year old son alone in Naru whilst she undergoes treatment. Critically this motion therefore challenges the 1990 Convention on the rights of the Child created by the United nations which thus ensures minors have the right to be cared for and protected by their parent at all times.

This controversy was initially catalyzed in September last year by the declaration made by the Australian Border Force and the International Health and Medical Services stating “Your son will need to remain in Naru while you are temporarily transferred to Port Moresby.” In an interview with the Guardian Fatemeh explained her fears for her son’s physical and mental health in her absence stating “Death and separation from my son are the same … I would not go any where without him. All we have is each other. Despite all my efforts I have not been able to bring the safety and tranquility I sought for my son and life, I feel worthless and defenseless.,”

The mental and physical injuries derived through the Australian Border Force’s blatant violation of family values are a symptom repeatedly echoed through a variety of detention centres whereby family separation is argued to be an ‘unofficial policy’ adopted by the government in order to deter both future and current immigrants. The forced breakdown of the most basic foundation of organic society and its enforcement upon some of the most vulnerable is a clear violation of human global rights and protection . The Australian government’s facilitation, enforcement and protection of the agencies which thus enact those policies therefore function as a clear index for the urgent need for future policy and agency change within the Australian administration.

Fatemeh and her son aged just 12 at the time arrived in Naru in 2013 as refugees from Iran after escaping a violent and turbulent family conflict. The small family now lives in a tent inside the immigration processing centre and have limited access to the facilities on the island. Now five years on Fatemeh now faces not only the mental complexities which accompany a life bound to off shore detention but also physical ailments inclusive of thyroid problems and a previous heart attack.

Fatemeh and other single mothers like her, living long term in detention centres must now face new challenges regarding the role and function of the family unit, as governmental policies continue to police and manipulate the roles, forms and values of family life. The urgent necessity for a major resolution to be reached through Australian immigration policy is thus critical before a new generation of refugee children, stand up and call for the accountability of their previous predecessors.

Ellie Willis