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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK
Australia asylum infant released
Villawood detention centre, Sydney, 01/01/2001
Naomi Leong was one of 28 children at Villawood detention centre
A three-year old girl who has spent her whole life in an Australian detention centre has enjoyed a first night of freedom.

Naomi Leong and her Malaysian mother Virginia were released from Sydney's Villawood detention centre on Monday.

Psychiatrists say Naomi has mental health problems, reportedly banging her head against the centre's walls.

Her detention was the latest of a string of controversial cases regarding Australia's very tough asylum policy.

Ms Leong said she and her daughter were both too excited to sleep during their first night away from Villawood.

Naomi was "very active, jumping up and down like a monkey", the Sydney Morning Herald reported her as saying.

Ms Leong had been in detention since she was caught trying to fly out of Sydney on a false passport nearly four years ago. She had overstayed her visa.

She and her daughter have now been granted temporary visas. Refugee activists called on the government to give them permanent residency immediately.

There has been intense Malaysian and Australian media interest in the Leongs' case.

Several psychiatric reports have found that both Naomi and her mother are suffering from mental health problems. When Naomi was allowed to attend a playgroup outside Villawood for the first time earlier this month, she reportedly asked not to return to the centre.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard denied the mother and daughter's release was in response to Malaysian media pressure.

Other cases

Australia's tough asylum policy, which requires all illegal immigrants to be indefinitely detained, is also under the spotlight due to two other high-profile cases.

Both Cornelia Rau, a German-born Australian resident, and Vivian Alvarez, a Philippines-born Australian citizen, are seeking compensation from the Australian government for wrongful treatment.

Ms Rau, whom her family says is mentally ill, was detained after going missing from a psychiatric ward in Sydney last year. She told the authorities she was a German woman named Anna Schmidt.

Ms Alvarez, who is disabled, was erroneously deported to the Philippines four years ago. The government sent a social worker to Manila on Monday to bring her back, but her lawyers first want Canberra to agree sufficient compensation to pay for her care.




SEE ALSO:
Australia eases asylum rules
23 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia lets elderly widow stay
08 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Tough immigration talk catches on
25 Jan 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia deports migrant family
30 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Australia
06 Jan 05 |  Country profiles


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