The premier of Australia’s Victoria state wrote to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Saturday, offering to "accept full responsibility" for the families and children brought to Australia from an immigration detention center in Nauru.
A total of 267 asylum seekers, including 91 children – 37 of them infants born in Australia – face deportation to Nauru in the wake of a High Court decision Wednesday that upheld the legality of the government's offshore processing regime.
Those involved had been brought to Australia to seek medical care.
In the letter to Turnbull, sent to Anadolu Agency by the Victorian Premier’s office, Daniel Andrews states, “I wish to inform you that Victoria stands ready to assist and care for the children and their families who were brought to Australia from Nauru.”
Seemingly addressing the worldwide condemnation of Australia’s hardline policy and corresponding detention center system, Andrews described a “sense of compassion” as “not only in the best interest of these children and their families” but “also in the best interests of our status as a fair and decent nation”.
Andrews requested that the prime minister not return the children to a “life of physical and emotion trauma”.
The offer from Victoria to house and care for the 267 asylum seekers came after more than 60 prominent Australian writers wrote to Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton condemning the government's policies as shameful and brutal, Fairfax reports.
Earlier this week, Australian doctors risked jail by speaking out about the conditions on Nauru, describing them as “toxic” for children, while church leaders defied the federal government by offering sanctuary to the asylum seekers.
The Australian Psychological Society also came out and stated that the health and human rights of refugees and asylum seekers “are of key concern to psychologists”.
In response to the High Court ruling, Greens Immigration Senator Sarah Hanson-Young tweeted "sending 90 children to dangers of Nauru is child abuse".
In defense, the government of Nauru has accused the Greens and the Anglican Church of peddling lies about the conditions for asylum seekers on the small south Pacific island.
Its justice minister, David Adeang, criticized Hanson-Young and the Anglican Dean of Brisbane for seeking to achieve a political agenda.
On Saturday, Anadolu Agency received a statement from Hanson-Young’s office.
"In the absence of leadership from the Labor and Liberal Parties in Canberra, it's fallen to the states to stand up for these vulnerable people," the senator said.
"I urge the Prime Minister to do the right thing when it comes to these people and that is, let them stay,” she stressed. "There is no reason to ship these people back to Nauru now, except for the Liberal Party's nasty politics."
The Refugee Action Collective has welcomed Andrews’ written offer to resettle all children and their families at risk of being sent back to Nauru, saying that Turnbull “must accept” the offer as a first step towards closing Nauru and the detention center on Manus Island.
“Federal ALP [Labor Party] opposition leader Bill Shorten should take note and abandon support for offshore processing and associated cruelty to refugees,” its spokesperson Chris Breen said in a statement.
“If the Turnbull government rejects the offer, we call on Daniel Andrews not to allow Victorian police or public servants to be used to facilitate removals to Nauru (or removals from Melbourne to Darwin in preparation for removal to Nauru),” he added.
“The Refugee Action Collective will call pickets of detention centers in Melbourne if there is any attempt to remove people to Nauru.”
Andrews’ letter to Turnbull, who has declined to comment, has received a mixed response.
National rallies opposing the return of the asylum seekers to Nauru are planned for Monday night under the banner ‘Stand for Sanctuary’.