Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to allow a Tamil couple and their Australian-born children to stay in Australia. The couple along with the children face being deported back to Sri Lanka. Morrison says he cannot soften the government’s hardline boat policy as that would be exploited by human traffickers and smugglers. This decision comes despite the fact that there have been mass protests and public rallies over the weekend in support of the family.
Morisson refused to show 'compassion' and grant an exception while adding, “That’s not how you run strong borders. I do understand the real feeling about this and the desire for there to be an exception but I know what the consequences are of allowing those exceptions". On being questioned if his government was not in line with the public outcry, Morrison said: “It’s not about the public mood, it’s about what is the right decision in Australia’s national interests to ensure that the integrity of our border protection regime is maintained. I know what happens when you send those messages back into those communities, whether it’s in Sri Lanka or the more than 10,000 people sitting in Indonesia right now who would get on a boat tomorrow if they thought this government was changing its position.” The family is fighting to remain in Australia because they fear persecution in Sri Lanka.
The Australian PM has advised the family to apply to come to Australia after they are deported to Sri Lanka. He has asked them to follow, “the same processes as everyone else anywhere else in the world. I would hope they do, but they didn’t come to the country in the appropriate way, they have not been found to have an asylum claim, and to change our policy on this or to exercise intervention powers on this would be to send exactly the wrong message to those who are looking to sell tickets to vulnerable people looking to get on boats. It would send them the exact wrong message and that’s not something that I, in good conscience, can allow to happen.”
Morrison added these comments after the Minister for Home Affairs in Australia Peter Dutton, launched a verbal attack at refugee advocates and “Labor opportunists” for trying to prevent the deportation of a Tamil couple and their Australian-born children to Sri Lanka, saying they are not refugees. Dutton argued that there are 68 million displaced people who have a more “compelling” case to be resettled in Australia. Dutton added, “The case of the family from Sri Lanka is also a complex case and has attracted a lot of media attention with many false claims by refugee advocates and Labor opportunists. Labor initially put them into detention and they were told all those years ago that, on the details they provided, they were not refugees under the UN definition so they would have to go home.”
“They were told that they would never settle permanently in Australia, just like many others who arrived by boat. They never accepted that decision.” Dutton’s intervention comes as lawyers make one last try in the Australian court to prevent the deportation of the family who are now being held in detention on Christmas Island. An interim injunction blocking the deportation of Priya, her husband, Nadesalingam, and their children Kopika and Tharunicaa, has been extended until Wednesday. Carina Ford, the immigration lawyer who is leading the case for the family told journalists outside court that, “that’s the battle we have. Ultimately, we need a change of heart.”
Priya and her husband Nadesalingam came to Australia by boat in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Friends and support groups claim that the couple left Sri Lanka because of Tamilians being persecuted. The pair married and lived in the Australian town of Biloela where they have worked for close to three years. The couple’s visa is said to have expired between January and February 2018.
The Australian Department of Home Affairs has reiterated that the family has been substantially assessed over the years and they have been found not to meet Australia’s protection criteria. The family had their appeal against their deportation rejected by an Australian court in June of last year. In the prevailing judgement, the judge presiding over the case noted that the couple had returned to Sri Lanka three times during the civil war and there was no evidence to suggest that Nadesalingam’s family that are still living in Sri Lanka was at risk from persecution. The judge further noted that the Sri Lankan civil war had ended in May 2009.
(Inputs from PTI)