Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2, have been detained with their parents Priya and Nades since March, 2018.
Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2, have been detained with their parents Priya and Nades since March, 2018.

‘No reason’ why gov shouldn’t intervene with Tamil family

A key campaigner for returning the Murugappan family back to Biloela hopes the new Minister for Home Affairs looks over the family's circumstances with a 'fresh set of eyes'.

But a Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said no one who attempted 'illegal' maritime travel to Australia would be settled in the country.

"The family's claims to engage Australia's protection obligations have been comprehensively assessed on a number of occasions by the Department of Home Affairs, various merits review bodies and appealed through multiple courts including the Federal Court to the High Court," the spokesperson said.

"At no time has any member of the family been found to be owed protection."

Priya and Nades arrived on Australian shores separately by boat in 2012 and 2013.

Their two daughters Kopika and Tharunicaa were born in Australia.

All four family members remain in detention on Christmas Island after Priya and Nades' visas expired in March 2018.

But with new home affairs minister Karen Andrews taking the reins after a cabinet reshuffle, the Department is still maintaining that the family is not owed protection.

"Both adults arrived in Australia illegally by boat. After arriving separately in Australia, they met and married and had two children," the spokesperson said.

Children who are born to parents who are both on temporary visas will reside in Australia on a visa with similar conditions to their parents, and aren't eligible to gain citizenship until having lived in Australia for 10 consecutive years.

Hon Karen Andrews MP Federal Member for McPherson, Queensland Liberal Party of Australia Official Portrait. 19 September 2018. File NO 20180331. 45th Parliament House Canberra. Image David Foote-AUSPIC/DPS.
Hon Karen Andrews MP Federal Member for McPherson, Queensland Liberal Party of Australia Official Portrait. 19 September 2018. File NO 20180331. 45th Parliament House Canberra. Image David Foote-AUSPIC/DPS.

 

The spokesperson said portfolio ministers had personal intervention powers under the Migration Act 1958, but ministers were the ones who determines what was in the public interest and did not have to exercise this power.

"The government's preference in every case is for foreign nationals who do not hold a valid visa and who have exhausted all outstanding avenues to remain in Australia to depart voluntarily on their own accord," the spokesperson said.

"Those unwilling to depart voluntarily will be subject to detention and removal from Australia."

Home to Bilo campaign founder and family friend Angela Fredericks hopes Ms Andrews will look at the issue with a 'fresh set of eyes'.

"So much damage has been done, so much trauma has been caused for no reason whatsoever," Mrs Fredericks said.

"Let's correct that. Let's bring them back to their support system where we know they'll be loved and supported."

The department spokesperson said the family still had an unresolved special leave application in the High Court and it was 'inappropriate' to comment on the specifics of this family's circumstances.

They said the time an individual spent in detention depended on a range of factors, including legal process and whether the immigrant voluntarily left.

But Mrs Fredericks said no court system in Australia could determine whether someone needed protection or not, and the Immigration Assessment Authority set the standards.

"We're absolutely disappointed in the decision they're making, and also incredibly scared over how much power does one person have over people's lives," she said.

"We've had five ministers who've had the power over this family.

"They basically have life or death power over this family."

Mrs Fredericks said the government had chosen to keep the family in detention, instead of in Biloela.

She holds the view that the family's arrival is not illegal as per the United Nation's Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951.

The Convention states refugees can't be returned to "frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion," unless that person is a threat to national security or has been found guilty of a serious crime that endangers the community.

The document also states, "the Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorisation, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence".

"The Contracting States shall not apply to the movements of such refugees restrictions other than those which are necessary and such restrictions shall only be applied until their status in the country is regularised or they obtain admission into another country.

"The Contracting States shall allow such refugees a reasonable period and all the necessary facilities to obtain admission into another country."

Originally published as 'No reason' why gov shouldn't intervene with Tamil family


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