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Injured Refugee Infant, Family to Remain in Australia

Activists hold placards and chant slogans as they protest outside the offices of the Australian Immigration Department in Sydney, Feb. 4, 2016. A public campaign on behalf of Baby Asah and her parents has prompted the immigration minister to allow the family to remain in the country instead of being sent back to a remote detention camp.

A public campaign on behalf of the baby daughter of a family of asylum-seekers has prompted Australia's immigration minister to allow the family to remain in the country instead of being sent back to a remote detention camp.

The 1-year-old child, known as Baby Asha, was brought to Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane for medical treatment last month from a camp on the South Pacific island of Nauru, where she suffered accidental burns.

The hospital refused to release the child after her treatment until they were assured she would be placed in a safer environment.

News of Baby Asha's plight led to a social media campaign to keep the family from being returned to Nauru, and hundreds of protesters mounted a blockade to prevent the baby from being forcibly removed from the hospital.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton announced Sunday that Asha and her parents could remain in Brisbane under "community detention," a policy that allows asylum-seekers to move about freely in the community.

But Dutton warned the family could still be sent back to Nauru at any time, saying "it is an important message to send" to the detainees in Nauru that "there is a continuation of the government’s policy.”

Asylum-seekers who try to reach Australia by boat are sent to detention camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. They are blocked from being resettled in Australia, even if found to be refugees.

The family is among 267 asylum-seekers subject to being sent back to Nauru after the High Court rejected a legal challenge to the government's hardline refugee policy.

The group includes 37 babies born in Australia and 54 other children brought to Australia from the Nauru camp.

Canberra said its policy is aimed at preventing refugees from being killed during the dangerous ocean voyage. But human rights activists have criticized the policy, citing numerous allegations of abuse at the Nauru refugee camp, including sexual assaults of women.

Some material for this report came from AFP and Reuters.