Like most children born in Australia, Samuel* is a happy and healthy toddler, who loves animals and visiting the zoo.
But a federal government decision to cut almost all support for dozens of Australian-based asylum seekers may change his future.
Samuel was born in Australia after his parents – along with 370 other asylum seekers captured under the new visa crackdown – were transferred from offshore processing centres for medical treatment.
News of the Turnbull government’s decision to cut income and accommodation support to up to 100 asylum seekers has thrown Samuel’s parents into a tailspin.
Family groups are not part of the first batch of asylum seekers to be targeted by the new “final departure” visa cuts, but Naomi* said she felt like her family could be sent to Nauru within six months.
“I’ve never seen my husband like this,” she told Fairfax Media.
“Ninety-nine per cent of our worry is for our son. One per cent is for my husband and me.”
Samuel, pictured above, was last publicly seen in early 2016 as part of a campaign featuring the faces of numerous asylum seeker babies who were born in Australia but wanted by the government to return with their families to Nauru.
Since then, Naomi and Samuel have enjoyed a relatively calm and stable life in Australia.
Even though the government saw the High Court refuse a challenge from human rights advocates for a big group of asylum seekers living here for medical reasons to remain in Australia, Naomi said it appeared to be happy enough to let many of them remain in the community.
For Samuel, this has meant enjoying all Sydney and Australia has to offer. Visits to the zoo and playing with other kids in a nearby park have been highlights of his young life.
The prospect of their meagre income support and accommodation disappearing has Naomi despairing about what the future might hold for her family, and in particular, what Samuel stands to lose.
“My husband and I have been through so much,” she said.
“The experience of Nauru traumatised us. But we are very proud of ourselves that our son was born in Australia and has had the privilege of possibilities here; the fresh air, the freedom.”
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that “every IMA [Illegal Maritime Arrival] transferred from a regional processing centre to Australia for temporary medical assistance was aware that once their medical needs were met they would return to Nauru or Manus”.
He said people would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has slammed the plan to end income and accommodation support, describing the move as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s “weakest move yet”.
In a strongly worded rebuke, Mr Shorten said the decision was a “new low” from the government.
Mr Shorten said that kicking people onto the streets with no support is “needlessly cruel and really, really dumb”.
“It won’t fix anything. It’s just hurting vulnerable and sick people for the sake of it,” he said.
But Human Services Minister Alan Tudge??? has defended the move, declaring the asylum seekers won’t be receiving any further taxpayer support.
Mr Tudge said the asylum seekers facing the new conditions had received medical treatment in Australia “and consequently now they are required to go back to Nauru, or to PNG, or indeed back to their home country”.
“That is what this is about, and it is consistent … with the principle that anybody who arrives by boat to our shores, won’t be settled in Australia; they will be settled elsewhere. That is what this is about,” he told the ABC.
The Greens have vowed to try and use Parliament to stop the government’s move. Leader Richard Di Natale said on Sunday the minor party was seeking advice on whether the use of a new “final departure Bridging E Visa” – expected to be issued to asylum seekers from Monday – can be overturned when the Senate returns in a week’s time.
“We do call on members of the crossbench and the Labor Party to support us in doing everything we can to stop this unspeakable cruel act getting through the Senate,” he said.
Human rights lawyers believe that about 370 people, including more than 50 babies born in Australia and 66 children born overseas, are highly likely to be captured by the government’s decision to place new bridging visa conditions on dozens of asylum seekers as of Monday.
The cohort also includes 83 single men and 14 single women. More than 20 of the asylum seeker women have suffered sexual assault or rape in their past.
“This decision is about politics not people,” said Amy Frew, a lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre.
“It is unconscionable to force families to choose between homelessness or certain harm in the offshore detention centres. We have had to advise all of our clients, 370 people, nearly one-third of which are children, that it appears that the government will force them out of their homes, leaving them destitute and homeless.
“These families are living in our communities. Building their lives. They have woken today to terrifying news. There are kids who will be in classrooms this week who on Sunday woke up to incredible uncertainty. They will be confused and afraid.”
The asylum seekers captured by the “final departure” visa conditions all tried to enter Australia by boat.
The majority of them are Iranians, Syrians and Afghanis from minority backgrounds. Sri Lankan Tamils and people from the Burmese minority group Rohingya are also included in the group.
While adult asylum seekers living in Australia on medical grounds have been prevented from being able to work, the children have been able to go to school.
Under the new visa conditions, children will still be able to go to school until they turn 18. Those aged over 18 are denied any educational opportunities.
Those issued with the new visa conditions will be given work rights in order for them to try to earn an income to pay for accommodation, food and other expenses while they remain in Australia.
They will also have some medical support and access to a case officer.
The government’s move is expected to place further burdens on church and charity groups.
As Naomi and many other asylum seeker mothers like her face uncertain times ahead, she is putting her faith in the Australian people to help her son have the best shot at a safe and productive life.
“People can use their voice to help the government change their mind about how they are treating us,” she said.
* Naomi and Samuel are not their real names.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.