Politics

Enough Is Enough, Australia Needs To Bring The Biloela Family Home

The Minister for Home Affairs has a decision to make about the Biloela family's future, but will she make the right one?

Biloela Family

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As outrage continues to mount over the medical evacuation of a three-year-old girl forced to live on Christmas Island, all eyes have turned on the politicians trapping her and her family, known the ‘Biloela family’, there.

Australia has failed the Murugappans after their desperate attempts to stay in the Queensland town of Biloela, as refugees from Sri Lanka.

The family have been in a detention centre on Christmas Island since August 2019. Despite their two girls being born here, both they and their parents are considered ‘unlawful maritime arrivals’ in the eyes of the law.

Neighbours described the family as generous, caring, and active members of the Biloela community, The Guardian reported at the time.

Their journey over the last three years has been a prickly back and forth. After their temporary visas expired in 2018, their home was raided and the family was sent to a detention centre in Melbourne, before being put on a flight back to Sri Lanka.

Lawyers intervened, they were brought back to Melbourne, then placed on a second flight to Sri Lanka, before more legal intervention and, finally, an offshore facility was reopened just to hold the Murugappans, which is where they’ve been ever since.

“Please, help us to get her out of detention and home to Biloela,” Tharnicaa’s mother said in a video message yesterday, cradling her daughter in her arms in a hospital ward.

But it’s unlikely that the Murugappan family will ever set foot in Australia again. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in an interview that the United States and New Zealand are being explored as alternative options for their resettlement.

The final decision lies with the recently appointed Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews, who has an opportunity to show kindness and humanity that will define the start to her new position.

She follows in the footsteps of predecessor Peter Dutton, who last year said the family of four were using “every trick in the book to make sure they can stay” in their Queensland community.

This, of course, isn’t the first time the country has been disgusted by the way the Biloela family have been treated. Protests have been held across the country since 2019, including for the three year anniversary of their detainment earlier this year, as well as vigils this week over their youngest daughter’s medical situation.

It shouldn’t take a child with life-threatening infections for policies to reflect a moral compass, and the Liberal party have instead chosen to toe a hard line of fixed caution and deflection.

Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment Dan Tehan was pushed on ABC’s News Breakfast this morning to try and see the Biloela family’s situation from a different light, being asked if it brought him any personal discomfort that children born in Australia are being detained.

Predictably, Tehan refused to comment except reiterating that the matter is before the courts at the moment.

Similarly, at a press conference yesterday, Andrews stood next to the Prime Minister as he skirted around the Biloela family’s future.

“This is a matter that’s going through the courts process they’ve initiated,” said Scott Morrison. “There are some present medical issues involving the family and they will continue to receive every medical care.”

“We are going through the process now of investigating a range of resettlement options in relation to a number of different circumstances here in Australia,” said Andrews.

“I can’t make public commentary on that at the moment because I don’t want to disrupt those negotiations.”

“That applies across all cohorts, across all groups, not specifically [this case],” Morrison ended.

When political pride overshadows values, and a vulnerable family is reduced to nothing more than an example to be made, we need to question who our elected government is actually representing.

Meanwhile, five-year-old Kopika sits in a gated building nearly 3000 kilometers away, desperately waiting for her sister’s return, with dampening hope that her family live a normal life out of detention once more.