Australia is under pressure to release a refugee family from a Christmas Island detention center after their three-year-old was medically taken to the mainland.
Tharnika Murugappan was taken to a hospital in Perth after she became unwell with fever, vomiting and dizziness.
Advocates say she has since been diagnosed with sepsis and pneumonia, and her condition is stable.
But he criticized the delay in receiving adequate medical care.
Thornika had been ill for about 10 days, after which authorities took her to a hospital on Christmas Island, and later transferred her to Perth.
Her mother, Priya Nadesalingdrum, said she repeatedly asked for antibiotics or hospital treatment, but doctors only gave her paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets.
Australian authorities have defended the level of care given to the family on the island, telling the BBC that Thornika had received treatment “in line with medical advice” on Christmas Island.
“The Australian Border Force strongly denies any allegations of inaction or misconduct of the individuals in its care,” a spokesman said in a statement.
The medical evacuation of a three-year-old child has created a public concern for the welfare of the family. He has been kept in custody for more than three years.
Tharnika’s parents, Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, had arrived by boat to seek refuge in Australia nearly a decade ago.
They settled in the country town of Biloela, Queensland, where their two girls, Thornika and six-year-old Kopica, were born.
But the government removed him to exile in 2018, as the family had no right to live in Australia.
His supporters in Biloela fought for his living, kicking off a legal battle that dragged through the country’s top courts.
The government moved the family to Christmas Island in 2019 because they could not be removed from the country following a court order.
The family told the BBC earlier this year that the conditions for their long-term detention were – and being separated from their support base – had suffered considerable damage.
Advocates say Thornika, who was taken into custody when she was eight months old, has a history of medical problems due to her “prison-like” conditions.
In her early years, limited access to daylight led to a vitamin D deficiency, which led to infections and other problems. At the age of two, she underwent surgery to remove her baby teeth as they were decaying from lack of nutrition.
She was going to the nursery on the island before falling ill on May 27.
Thornika’s mother Priya is allowed to accompany her to the Perth hospital, but her father Nadés and older sister Kopika remain on the island.
The girl’s illness has prompted supporters of the family, including several opposition lawmakers, to resume calls for the government to release her.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has the power to grant visas to the family to stay in Australia.
“This family shouldn’t be in custody — they should be in their community in Biloela,” said Labor home affairs spokeswoman Christina Keneally.
On Tuesday, the government announced it was considering deals where the family could be resettled in the US or New Zealand.
But the family’s lawyer, Carina Ford, said neither she nor her clients had been contacted. Supporters still want the family to be returned to their Queensland home.
The HometoBilo campaign wrote, “We have a perfectly good resettlement option in Biloela. We urge Minister Karen Andrews to use Minister’s discretion and let our friends come to #HomeToBilo, where they will be safe and loved. “
Australia has a strict refugee policy where it refuses to accept asylum seekers arriving by boat. The government says it is meant to stop the trafficking of people, but human rights groups have criticized the measure as arbitrary and a violation of refugee rights,
Australia’s strict immigration laws allow it to indefinitely detain “non-citizens” such as Murugappan – a policy that has also been strongly criticized by the United Nations and human rights groups.
Thousands of asylum seekers have been held in facilities off the mainland since 2013, when the government introduced “offshore processing” of boat arrivals.
They wait there while their refugee claims are assessed, a process that can take years.
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