The federal government must not send babies born in immigration detention in Australia for offshore processing until a legal case involving another asylum-seeker baby concludes, a lawyer says.
Lawyers Katie Robertson and Jacob Varghese have just returned from Christmas Island, where they interviewed asylum seekers who have had children while in detention.
LISTEN: Stefan Armbruster speaks with lawyer Jacob Varghese
Mr Varghese said Maurice Blackburn is now acting for the families of 26 infants – 24 on Christmas Island and two in Melbourne – who were born in Australia.
Mr Varghese has written to Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, giving him until 4pm (AEST) on Wednesday to guarantee those families will not be shifted to Manus Island or Nauru before the resolution of the baby Ferouz case in the High Court.
Maurice Blackburn is acting for the family in this case, which seeks to establish whether babies born in Australia are unauthorised maritime arrivals and can be removed for offshore processing.
Mr Varghese said the case should be completed next month but the unsuccessful litigant is likely to challenge the result.
He said clients he has interviewed fear they will be moved on with only minutes’ notice by immigration authorities before the baby Ferouz case is complete.
He said conditions for families are poor at Christmas Island but they would have poorer access to health and legal assistance offshore.
“We are very hopeful the minister will see the sense of this undertaking,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
“There is clearly a very important legal issue here that needs to be determined in the High Court, and there is no reason that these children can’t be kept here until that issue is determined, but if the minister does not give that undertaking, we will be contemplating appropriate legal action.”
That legal action is likely to occur by Thursday, he said.