Friday, November 15, 2013

Inhumanity, here in Australia

The news today is full of reports of an asylum seeker named Latifa, a Rohingyan woman from Myanmar, who gave birth to a baby boy by caesarean last week in a Brisbane hospital. The baby was sick at birth, so he spent some time being cared for in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.

Fine, good, so far froody, right? Australia is a rich country. We take care of sick newborns. And the problem is ...?

Latifa was returned to detention 3 days (yes, THREE WHOLE DAYS) after having the caesarean, which is, after all, major abdominal surgery, while her son was still in neonatal intensive care, and was only allowed to visit him limited daytime hours.

Despite Scott Morrison's posturing, the hospital has confirmed what any of us who have ever actually HAD a baby in Australian hospitals already knew - this is bloody-minded and completely abnormal. The hospital encourages as much mother-baby contact as possible for sick neonates, day and night, to help with bonding, establishing breastfeeding, and just because I DON'T KNOW IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO WHY ARE WE EVEN HAVING THIS CONVERSATION IN 2013...

The politicisation of this abhorrent thing has been revolting. Our Prime Minister, who "regrets" what happened but is quick to make sure we all understand that it is in fact Latifa's *fault* for having the nerve to be a pregnant refugee. Morrison, trying to duckshove the issue to be about access to parental beds at the hospital. Look, I had THREE babies by c-section in a public hospital even more poorly resourced than the Mater and this is a complete crock of an argument. Hospitals will always find ways to accommodate a mum who wants to stay near her infant. Especially when she is, herself, only three days post surgery!

I ask this - if Latifa had been in jail for committing a crime, would her access to her baby have been any more restricted? (The answer, by the way, is no - Corrections Victoria, at least, takes the eminently sensible approach of attempting to keep infants and very young children with their incarcerated mothers as much was possible.)

So this woman, who has committed no crime, because being a refugee and applying for asylum is not illegal regardless of one's mode of entry and despite what our government would have us believe, is taken away from her sick baby and shoved back into detention 3 days after a surgical birth. She'd barely have been hobbling by then, let me tell you from three experiences. She was then provided with pathetically attenuated contact with her son because it wasn't convenient for the department workers to arrange more.

Everything - everything - about this stinks. And like everything about Australia's asylum seeker policy in the past decade, it makes me want to roar and scream and do something real to effect change.

This is a sickness of the soul. Cry, the beloved country, for the weight of our sins is heavy.

This is post 15 in NaBloPoMo. Halfway there...

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