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- Asylum seeker policy pricks national psyche
Protesters sustained a hospital vigil through the night after celebrating what they considered a mini victory in the fight to keep an asylum seeker baby from deportation to Nauru.
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Baby Asha given 'sanctuary' by hospital
Brisbane's Lady Cilento hospital refuses to release baby Asha because Nauru is not a "suitable home environment". Nine News
The patrol will continue until the government guarantees it won't remove the one-year-old girl known as "Asha" from Brisbane's Lady Cilento Hospital.
They formed human walls to block and check police cars for the one-year-old, chanted into the night and declared they'd "sent a message" to the government.
A strong and vocal show of support, with more than 300 attendees according to organisers, quickly swelled on Saturday afternoon after concerns flared deportation was imminent.
Asha's family's advocate, Natasha Blucher, told Fairfax Media immigration officers had visited the family on Saturday morning to tell them they would be removed from the hospital shortly.
Serco guards then blocked calls to the family, further raising fears they were being made incommunicado in preparation for removal, despite a doctor assuring them they wouldn't be moved, she said.
Fairfax Media understands doctors inside the hospital discussed moving Asha to avoid officials.
Protesters gathered at all three exits to the South Brisbane hospital in an attempt to stop Department of Immigration and Border Protection officials from removing her as horns beeped in support almost non stop.
Dozens swarmed on to the street to stop two separate police cars from leaving until they were satisfied the Darwin-born baby, an "illegal maritime arrival" by virtue of her parents' status, from leaving.
Passionate agitators ordered police to wind down the windows of their car before they would move out of the way.
A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told the ABC nothing had changed and the department was still negotiating with the hospital.
Just after 6.30pm, Queensland Health tweeted the news supporters had been hoping for.
We understand baby Asha will remain in LCCH overnight at least. We ask those outside the hospital to respect other patients & staff.— Queensland Health (@qldhealthnews) February 20, 2016
A huge cheer erupted as Melbourne Asylum Seeker Resource Centre chief executive Kon Karapanagiotidis shared the news.
He called the LCCH clinicians heroes for standing up to the government and
"I think tonight sends a very clear message, when you have the local people of Brisbane surround a hospital to protect a baby from it's own government, from sending it to child abuse," he said.
"And I think it is a pivotal tipping point in this action to see the compassion and concern of everyday local people up in arms around the cruelty of this government, demanding better and willing to put their bodies peacefully on the line to protect the baby when our own government won't.
"How damning of our government and what a credit to the Australian people."
Brisbane pop starlets The Veronicas and outspoken state Labor MP Rob Pyne, who called the federal government policy on asylum seekers "appalling", lent their voices to the throng.
"People think (Prime Minister) Malcolm Turnbull is some sort of small l liberal but this is big c conservative reactionary politics at its worst," Mr Pyne told Fairfax Media.
On Friday, Mr Turnbull argued the government's strict asylum seeker policy was necessary to dissuade people smugglers.
"We are utterly committed to ensuring that we give no encouragement, no marketing opportunities to the people smugglers," he said.
Mr Karapanagiotidis pledged to continue the vigil 24/7 until Mr Turnbull gave a guarantee baby Asha wouldn't be moved.
Human Rights Law Centre lawyers earlier in the week announced they'd received an undertaking a 72-hour warning would be given before Asha was moved, even as they raised fears the government was planning to revoke the warning period for 266 other asylum seekers on the mainland.
But Immigration Minister Peter Dutton warned he would not be "pressured" over the issue on Thursday.
News of the gathering spread quickly through social media late Saturday, generating a large response nationally.
In Sydney, protesters interrupted a speech by federal Labor leader Bill Shorten, calling for baby Asha and other asylum seekers to be allowed to stay in Australia.
Well-wishers from all over the country ordered pizza delivered to the hospital, eventually completely overwhelming even the hungriest of asylum seeker supporters.
The Veronicas filmed this violent outburst but a police spokesman said there were no arrests and the crowds were well behaved.
WARNING: OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE
Here less than 5minutes &some ignorant man already tried to force his opinion with violence at this peaceful protest pic.twitter.com/NYSHeMAlae— The Veronicas (@TheVeronicas) February 20, 2016