Denying Citizenship Rights to Refugee Babies

The Federal Court of Australia has voted not to overturn the Government’s decision which has denied citizenship rights to baby Ferouz, who was born in a Brisbane hospital. Ferouz’s family were fleeing persecution as members of the Rohingya minority group from Myanmar (Burma). His mother was pregnant with him at the time of their arrival, but according to the new laws from July 19, they were denied the right to claim protection visas.

The Rohingya remain stateless and face ongoing violence. Additionally, those living in overseas refugee camps are living in appalling conditions and denied education. The situation for the Rohingya is so bad that the United Nations calls it a “crime against humanity.” 

The Australian Federal judge Michael Jarrett thinks women in detention may otherwise seek to get pregnant in detention to grant their babies citizenship. Here’s the facts: Australia’s asylum seekers are being held in detention for years in appalling conditions. It’s unreasonable to hold people for so long in limbo, denying them human rights, including the right to continue their family relationships.

The Australian Human Rights Commission recently oversaw a public hearing on the treatment of children in detention centres and found that the conditions of detention are exactly like “a prison,” contributing to poor mental health. Instead of addressing these conditions and abolishing the unethical detention program, our Government is now denying Australian children citizenship rights.

The Liberal Government’s “Operation Sovereign Border” policies, which has radically scaled back our refugee aid and intake, and the so-called “Stop the Boats” campaign, are predicated on a false notion that unauthorised boat arrivals cannot be fruitfully accommodated within society. Arrivals by boats have always been significantly lower than unauthorised arrivals by plane. In fact the biggest immigration issue we face are migrants who overstay their visa; but as they are mostly from developed nations the Government does not see it fit to launch military operations to contain them.

Australia has a long history of resettling asylum seekers within the community, rather than keeping them indefinitely in detention or sending them for processing offshore.  These programs stretch back to the resettlement of Jewish refugees during World War II and various waves of asylum seekers from every continent from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s. A large proportion of these arrivals came by boat and yet many are now thriving, as sociology research shows that the children of refugees have gone on to become highly educated professionals, especially those from South East Asian and European backgrounds. 

The latest ruling by the Federal Court will deny human rights to a further 100 Australia-born children. Women and children face additional hurdles as refugees that our nation should attend to, including education, safety and health. Rather than scaling back our international obligations as a developed nation, Australia should demonstrate compassion and adhere to the refugee convention set out by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Image and story via SBS News.

10 thoughts on “Denying Citizenship Rights to Refugee Babies


  1. Jane Satan Rakali It is appalling! Citizenship should be a basic human right. Under the UN nationality is a human right so I cannot believe that our Government and court of law are taking this away from an Australian person. Our Government is engaging in multiple human rights violations with our treatment of asylum seekers. History is going to be especially scathing looking back at this period of Australian politics.

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  2. The Other Sociologist  I don’t know what to add to that, other than, yes. It’s quite incredible to see the way people have been manipulated into supporting this regime. Looking at the media and stunts, it all seems so incredibly obvious. And yet people are accepting it.


    It’s terrifying, really.

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  3. Agree Jane Satan Rakali it’s incredibly frightening! It makes me think of Niemöller’s’s “First they came” poem (http://goo.gl/tp8St2).


    Lots of Australians are speaking up – but still not enough. We can, as a nation, mobilise on events that are abhorrent – look at the outcry over Baby Gammy, which has led to legal probes into Australians’ use of unregulated Thai surrogacy services. We rightfully have sympathy for this child, Gammy, and so we should for baby Ferouz and others like him. An article in The Conversation made a similar link:


    “The generous response by many Australians to the plight of one child [Gammy] was impressive and well-intentioned no doubt. Putting an individual human face on a complex problem plainly has its merits. Indeed, the scale of the problem facing far less fortunate and – yes – far more disadvantaged children in remoter parts of the globe is quite overwhelming and potentially disempowering. This is why aid policy remains such an important expression of a country’s priorities.” (http://goo.gl/V0ekl9).

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  4. The Other Sociologist  The questions about Gammy are great, but where is the media discussion about how young women are being subtly influenced with this idea that we need to have three kids, one for mum, one for dad, one for the country…. Seriously? And the baby bonus? !


    It is an insidious influence at a time when unemployment is rising and becoming the target of horizontal hostility, welfare and refuges are being cut or transferred into the hands of religious managers who promote the kind of patriarchal values linked to domestic violence and women in the work place face growing pay and promotions problems. Largely because of the same influences.


    I’m happy to admit that I’m heavily biased against religion. But I’d be happy to revise it any time that religion in politics stops pushing retrogressive human rights abuses.

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  5. Thanks for your comments Jane Satan Rakali. Agreed – the political ideology pushing women to have children is counter-productive given our work policies are not family-friendly.


    Nothing wrong with religion per se. Just as there are horrible things done in the name of religion, religious groups have been central in providing practical and legal aid for asylum seekers. A group of Christians was arrested for their peaceful protest over over this very issue in June (http://goo.gl/j4puuM). Politics driven by religious ideology, which is what I think you’re getting at, is another thing altogether. To bring it back to the topic: if the latest wave of refugees were Christian and not from other minority religions, Operation Sovereign Borders would not exist.


    The false idea that refugees are “queue jumpers” and “undesirable” took hold during the Tampa crisis in 2001 where asylum seekers sought refuge in Australia from Muslim-majority countries. This anti-refugee sentiment gained momentum due to the Government-led xenophobia after the September 11 attacks (see my blog: http://goo.gl/1JnDRn). The Rohingya are a persecuted group. Sending them back to Myanmar is pointless, just as sending refugees back Sri Lanka is a violation of international law (http://goo.gl/eFpaCO). If they were Christian, our borders would remain open. 

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