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Former Australian PM urges for the release of Tamil asylum seeking family

Former Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has urged the new Home Affairs Minister, Karen Andrews, to release a Tamil asylum-seeking family from immigration detention on Christmas Island, during a Q&A session on ABC. 

Turnbull was the prime minister when Priya and Nades Murugappan, who moved to Australia with separate asylum claims in 2012 and 2013, were first detained alongside their daughters Kopica and Tharnicca after their four-year bridging visa expired in March 2018. 

During his television appearance, he said that it was the “right thing” for Karen Andrews to use her ministerial discretion to release the Tamil family to their home in Biloela. Whilst agreeing with the state’s strict border policy, he mentioned that there is a difference “between scratching your ear and ripping it off”. “You need to have a bit of subtlety, compassion, you need to have some humanity,” he added.

Despite credible concerns over torture and extra-judicial killings in Sri Lanka, the former Home Affairs department repeatedly maintained that the family does not meet the criteria for protected status. Priya reported seeing her former husband burnt alive and being the victims of rape during the Sri Lankan armed struggle, whilst Nades, who had connections to the LTTE, fears his life will be at risk if he is deported back to Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, the new minister declared her adherence to Australia’s strict immigration policy on Sky News. “What I’m very determined to do is to make sure that the people smugglers do not think for a second that there is a change to our policy, and I am not going to open that door even a slither,” she said.

In response to a question posed to the Deputy Labor Leader, Kristina Keneally, on The Project TV on whether the minister will approach the case of Biloela family differently, she stated,

“Well, she can look at this with fresh eyes and I’m quite encouraged that she has said she is getting a high-level briefing and a detailed briefing. I’d encourage her to go to Biloela, speak to the local community there, understand how well-loved this family is. She might even consider travelling to Christmas Island and talk to some of those residents and indeed, the family, because she is going to make a profound decision that will impact particularly these young children’s lives.”

Last month, former community members and friends of the Biloela family gathered for a dawn vigil to mark the three-year anniversary since the family was detained by immigration officers.

Read more here.


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