Skip To Content

    A Baby Girl Has Been Born To Refugees Living In Nauru

    Pressure is on Malcolm Turnbull to set a new agenda for asylum seekers living in limbo on the island.

    This baby girl is the first baby born to a refugee family living in Nauru.


    Her name is Nourkayas, and she is the third child for the Rohingya family, who already have a seven-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl.

    The family are longer in the Australian-run detention centre on Nauru, but live in one of the open camps for refugees on the island.

    Baby and mother are reportedly doing well, but refugee advocates have concerns about her health and safety on the island.

    With Nauru's lack of facilities and antenatal care, an infant mortality rate twenty times higher than Australia and with no hope of resettlement in Australia, they say her future is bleak.

    The baby was born at a hospital in Nauru after her mother refused to be transferred to Port Moresby to give birth.

    Alex Ellinghausen / AAPIMAGE

    "The fact that refugees are sent to PNG and asylum seeker mothers are sent to Australia to have their babies says that Australian authorities do not believe that Nauru is safe," said Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Coalition.

    Rintoul told BuzzFeed News that all pregnant refugees and asylum seekers used to be flown to Australia to give birth, but the policy changed in January.

    "There needs to be consistent policy from the government. All mothers-to-be should be brought, with their families, to Australia to give birth, where there is proper medical facilities to ensure the health of mother and baby," he said.

    In the Nibok camp on the island, the family are housed in converted shipping containers. With little ventilation, they can get unbearably hot, with frequent water and electricity shortages.

    In addition to her health and safety, there's another concern. There's a chance the baby could be effectively stateless.

    "It's an intriguing situation," Rintoul told BuzzFeed News. "Nauru will not allow resettlement there, and the Rohingya are not recognised in Myanmar or Bangladesh. Essentially they are a stateless group of people."

    He said there could be grounds under the Nauru constitution for the baby to apply for citizenship, but that it's not yet being pursued. "Nobody wants to stay on Nauru," he added.

    “The unfortunate truth is that there is no future for families and children on Nauru,” the Greens’ immigration spokesperson, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young told BuzzFeed News.

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    “There is no long term plan in place to provide these families with any type of permanent, lasting support.

    “The conditions for women and children in the detention camp are appalling and those who have already been resettled on the island have been exposed to serious abuse and harassment.

    “The collapse of the legal and judicial systems on Nauru has exposed these children to danger and their families have no way to protect themselves.

    “I urge our new Prime Minister to consider the hopelessness of the situation on Nauru and bring these children and families to Australia before more damage is done.”

    In an interview with Sky News on Wednesday, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was tight-lipped when asked about baby Nourkayas and whether he would change any of the asylum seeker policies.

    Sky News

    "I have the same concerns about the situation of people on Nauru and Manus as you all Australians do," he told David Speers.

    He said he would not be announcing any new policies during the interview, but did not rule out a policy change on the detention of asylum seekers. Turnbull said all changes would have to be agreed to by cabinet ministers.

    Dutton echoed Turnbull's concerns in response to the interview, saying "where we can get people out of Nauru into a permanent arrangement somewhere else, we should do that," he said.

    Refugees released from the detention centre are given temporary protection visas in Nauru for five years. They are allowed to live and work in the community for that time but then have to move to another country. There's a resettlement deal with Cambodia, but so far only four refugees have taken up the offer and moved there.

    With an estimated 400 refugees now living in Nauru, it’s expected the government will need to come up with a more sustainable, humane solution soon. There will be many hoping that the new leadership will provide a more hopeful future for the baby girl who is a few days younger than Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership.

    Alexandra Lee is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

    Contact Alex Lee at

    Got a confidential tip? Submit it here