Monday, 20 July 2009

Drug courier's child to remain at home

Caroline Overington
July 20, 2009

Article from: The Australian

A CHILDREN'S Court magistrate has ordered that a four-year-old Cambodian girl stay in Australia to be raised by her foster parents when her mother, a drug courier, is released from prison and deported.

The girl's Cambodian mother came to Australia in 2006 with 50 pellets of heroin in her anus. She was arrested at Sydney airport and imprisoned for four years and is due to be deported this month.

A case worker at the NSW Department of Community Services told the NSW Children's Court that it was important for "Chanlina", who has lived with her Australian foster parents for three years, be deported, too, so she could develop a "Cambodian identity".

According to court documents, Chanlina's mother used her as a prop when she carried her into Australia in 2006, while also carrying heroin pellets in her body.

After her mother was arrested, Chanlina was put in foster care, and has since lived with a 65-year-old woman, Paula, and her 33-year-old daughter, Suzanne, and Suzanne's daughter, Fiona, 6.

Chanlina's case worker last week told the Children's Court that she was concerned about "the risk to Chanlina's sense of identity" should she lose touch with her Cambodian identity.

Chanlina's mother has argued that she didn't know she was carrying drugs until the day of the flight, but Magistrate Scott Mitchell rejected this saying: "I think she knew quite clearly.

"Certainly, she was well aware of what she was doing when, on the morning of the flight, she swallowed 168 pellets (of heroin) and inserted others in her anus."

Mr Mitchell said there were many risks in allowing her to return to Cambodia with her mother, including "the painful business of separating her from her foster parents".

In Cambodia, she would find herself in surroundings quite foreign to her experiences and in a family with links to the international drug trade and whose "criminal enterprise takes precedence over her own safety".

He said the DOCS plan was "not consistent with her safety, welfare and wellbeing".

He ordered Chanlina's case worker to come up with a new plan for her long-term care directed to Chanlina remaining in Australia.

He assigned full-time care to Paula and Suzanne, saying he was sure they would introduce her to Buddhism, and to the Cambodian community in Sydney. He agreed that she would lose some of her cultural identity "but in this migrant country of ours, that is the fate of a great many Australians".

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