Contributed from Victoria
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has given the Murugappan family the go ahead to live in the community detention in Perth. They will go back into offshore detention at Christmas Island. This is great news for the family. But they will not be allowed to return to the Biloela community that has campaigned for their liberty.
From the position of the Australian government, this is not reversal of longstanding policy to lock up, isolate, and deport, if possible, asylum seekers. This continues. But the campaign to free the Murugappans and widespread support within the broad Australian community has made this more difficult and the government look especially cruel and running short on compassion.
The hospitalisation of seriously ill daughter Tharnicaa, suffering from sepsis and pneumonia after being denied proper treatment at Christmas Island, left the government with a serious public relations problem.
A very sick Tharnicaa in Perth hospital
Even the Australian Medical Association on Tuesday called for the detention of Tharnicaa, her sister Kopika, parents Priya and Nades to end. They have concerns over the mental health of the children.
A serious division has emerged within the Liberal and National parties over the matter.
Political necessity demanded damage control and positioning to make it look like freedom is in the air. Media reported this. It said that the family was to be released and implied they would be allowed to stay in Australia.
This is not the situation. Community detention in Australia isolation and deprivation remains the policy and community detention for the Murugappans is not a pathway toward residence in Australia and being allowed to go home to Biloela.
The Murugappans still have a long battle to wage, as the intention of the Australian government is to continue its hard line to deny asylum seekers arriving by boat.
The government won’t even acknowledge the reality that these people come because of actual or feared persecution, or a threat to their lives. They are referred to as ‘illegal maritime arrivals”. Many fled lands in which the Australian government has been involved, and there is a humanitarian obligation to come up with a bit of compassion and allow asylum seekers to stay.
Government policy is stated as being designed to take business away from people smugglers. If people did not have to flee for their safety, there would be no business. It exists because countries like Australia have turned their backs on these people.
It is high time the mandatory detention policy came to an end and replaced by a system that processes applicants asylum seekers and according to Australia’s international obligations as a member of the United Nations.
Priya and Nades are Tamils who fled Si Lank and persecution. Their girls were born in Australia.
The campaign to let them stay in Australia will continue.