Photograph courtesy of Home to Bilo
A Tamil refugee family have been reunited after being moved to community detention in Perth, Australia, following the medical evacuation of their three year old daughter to a hospital as she was being denied treatment by detention centre staff at Christmas Island.
Last week, Minister of Immigration, Alex Hawke MP, announced that the family would be moved from Christmas Island, where they were in detention for over three years, to community detention in Perth.
"The family will now reside in suburban Perth through a community detention placement, close to schools and support services, whilst the youngest receives medical treatment from the nearby Perth Children's Hospital as the family pursures ongoing legal matters," Hawke said in a statement.
Although the family have been moved to mainland Australia, Hawke highlighted that the decision "does not create a pathway to a visa."
"The Government's position on border control has not changed," he added.
Nades and Kopika leaving Christmas Island. Photograph courtesy of Home to Bilo.
Reacting to the Minister's announcement to resettle the family of four, Angela Fredericks, a family said, "We hope and assume this is only a temporary step. Community detention is no guarantee of safety and peace for this family."
"The truth is that the courts have never had the power to assess the merits of this family’s refugee claims or grant visas [...] The Minister’s power to grant visas is completely independent from the decisions of any court. We cannot say what - or who - is preventing Minister Hawke from bringing this family home to Bilo," she added.
The Tamil asylum-seeking family, Priya and Nades Murugappan and their two Australian born daughters Kopika and Tharunicaa, were initially detained in Melbourne during an early morning raid in March 2018. They were detained after their four-year bridging visa expired.
Nades and Priya came to Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013 having separate asylum claims. Priya reported seeing her former husband burnt alive whilst Nades is fearful of returning to Sri Lanka due to his connections to the LTTE. Despite credible concerns over torture and extra-judicial killings in Sri Lanka, the Department of Home Affairs has repeatedly maintained that the family does not meet the criteria for protected status. Australian immigration law prevents “unauthorised maritime arrivals” but discretion can be placed in exceptional cases likes that of the Murugappan family.
The Australian government’s strict immigration policies have remained steadfast despite growing recognition of the dangers Tamil asylum seekers face when forcibly returned.
Last month, a UK court found a key document used by Home Affairs and tribunals in Australia to reject refugee applications for Tamils from Sri Lanka as “unreliable”.
These country information reports are held as credible and authoritative and are considered by decision makers when assessing claims for asylum. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) 2019 country information report on Sri Lanka claims torture of Tamils is no longer state-sponsored and that Sri Lankans face a low risk of torture overall, despite overwhelming evidence of ongoing torture on the island.
Multiple rallies took place over the weekend across Australia, calling for the Tamil family to be allowed to return to their home in Biloela.