Politics

“Let Them Stay”: Thousands March In Support Of Tamil Asylum Seeker Family Facing Deportation

Even Alan Jones wants the government to intervene.

Biloela Tamil family

Thousands of Australians participated in rallies around the country on Sunday in support of a Tamil asylum seeker family facing deportation.

Peaceful protests were held in capital cities across of Australia, as well as in the small town of Biloela, Queensland, where Priya, Nades and their two young, Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharunicaa had lived for years before their home was raided by Border Force officials in March last year, one day after Priya’s bridging visa expired.

In Melbourne more than 1,000 people gathered on the steps of the State Library before marching through the city. Speaking at the event, Greens leader Richard Di Natale hit out at Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton for inflicting “senseless cruelty” on the family.

“This is a minister in Peter Dutton taking pleasure in the suffering of others, that’s what going on here,” he said. “It’s barbaric, it’s cruel and it needs to end”.

In Sydney, hundreds met in Martin Place, where Labor’s Kristina Keneally called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to embrace the teachings of Christianity.

“As a Christian Australian, my message to our Christian prime minister Scott Morrison [is to] open your heart,” she said. “We’re having a debate right now in Australia about religious freedom. Religious freedom only matters if we as religious people speak up for the values that we hold dear.”

Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese has also thrown his support behind the family, urging the Morrison government to intervene.

“I’ve raised directly with prime minister Morrison the need for the immigration minister to intervene in this case,” he told the press on Sunday morning. “This would not undermine Australia’s borders. It would simply be the very reason why there is ministerial discretion … to show compassion, to show that there are specific needs for this family.”

Hell, even Alan Jones wants the government to let them stay.

While the federal court has ruled that Priya and Nades are not refugees, the family say they fear they will face persecution if returned to Sri Lanka. On Thursday night, after nearly 18 months in immigration detention in Melbourne, the family was forced onto a plane to Sri Lanka, only to be removed from the flight in Darwin after a last-minute injunction from a federal judge. That injunction has since been extended until Wednesday on the grounds that two-year-old Tharunicaa has never had her claims for asylum formally assessed.

Supporters of the family are calling on Immigration Minister David Coleman to personally intervene in the case, although his boss, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, has repeatedly poured cold water on the idea. In a typically compassionate editorial for The Courier-Mail on Sunday, Dutton accused refugee advocates and “Labor opportunists” of making “false claims” about the family’s case, and reiterated his position that the family “are not refugees”.

“We have got all of the children out of detention who were put there by Labor,” he wrote — although his point was somewhat undermined by the news that Priya, Nades, Kopika and Tharunicaa were on Friday night transferred into the detention centre on Christmas Island.

Meanwhile, the people of Biloela have continued to call for the family to be returned.