Immigration

Two-year-old Tamil girl back in detention and recovering after delayed treatment for head injury

Tharunicaa is now recovering in a Melbourne immigration detention centre after her head injury. Source: Supplied

A two-year-old Tamil asylum seeker is back in detention in Melbourne after receiving treatment for a head injury.

Advocates say a Tamil toddler is recuperating after receiving treatment for a head injury sustained when a whiteboard fell off a wall in the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre in Broadmeadows. 

"Today she took a Panadol and still has weakness in one of her legs, but [doctors] said that should resolve itself," friend and advocate Angela Fredericks said.

The incident on Thursday afternoon occurred in the activity room of the detention centre.

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Treatment was delayed for Tharunicaa, the child of Tamil asylum seekers Priya and Nades, for at least five hours while management debated whether to allow the child to be taken to hospital, advocates say.

During that time Tharunicaa vomited two times and developed a swollen face, Ms Fredericks said.

"It wasn't until she threw up again that she was finally able to get into an ambulance and taken to the hospital.

"Doctors said it was a mild head injury and kept her in for observation."

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The delay concerned the parents, causing Priya's blood sugar levels to elevate, Ms Fredericks said.

"They were really worried about Tharunicaa because her face was swollen and she just wasn't settling.

"They said (they were concerned about) the secrecy behind it all. So yesterday, Nades took her to the doctor and Priya wasn't being told anything. Nades was being taken to the hospital [with Tharunicaa] and Priya just sat and not knowing.

"Priya's blood sugar levels went through the roof and she ended up with a migraine today from all the stress."

The child has been detained with her sister Kopika and parents, Tamil asylum seekers Priya and Nades, in the Melbourne detention centre for the past 17 months.

Her legal case to stay in Australia is still pending after the case of her older sister and mother was exhausted.

Priya and Nades came to Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013 following Sri Lanka's civil war and settled in town for four years on a temporary bridging visa, which ran out in March 2018. Both their children were born in Australia.

'Robbed of her childhood'

The head injury incident follows a refusal last month by detention centre authorities to allow Tharunicaa to have a birthday cake brought in by friends of the family for her second birthday in detention.

"What killed us was that this little girl has been robbed of her childhood," Ms Fredericks said.

"Her parents aren't actually being allowed to protect their child."

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Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton insists there are no children in detention, with the Department of Home Affairs classifying the living arrangements of Tharunicaa as happening within a residential precinct of an "alternative place of detention".

The Australian Human Rights Commission said in a report last month that even though such an arrangement is "far less harsh and restrictive", closed immigration detention "should never be used for children".

The Department of Home Affairs has been contacted for comment.

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