Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner and National Children’s Commissioner have welcomed the release of the Murugappan family from closed immigration detention on Christmas Island into community detention.
However, the decision does not resolve the family’s long-term future, the Human Rights Commission has warned, saying in a statement that it has has long called for a compassionate consideration of the family’s visa situation in Australia.
“Keeping children in closed immigration detention can almost never be justified under international human rights law,” said Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow.
Human rights of the children will be better protected
“We welcome the announcement of this family’s reunification in Australia. The human rights of this family, and especially their young children, are better protected by housing them in the community on the mainland.”
He added: “However, the decision by [Immigration] Minister [Alex] Hawke does not resolve the family’s long-term future. In these particular circumstances, we consider the exercise of Ministerial intervention is necessary and appropriate to ensure a compassionate resolution for this family.”
National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds said Australia should act in the best interests of the family’s young children.
Their wellbeing must be foremost in decision-making
“Their wellbeing and their human rights must be top of the list in any decision-making,” she stated.
“It’s time to show compassion and allow them the chance to grow up in the only community they have ever known – a community that cares for them.”
Priya and Nadesalingam and their two daughters Kopika and Tharunicaa, who were both born in Australia, have spent more than three years in immigration detention in Melbourne and Christmas Island.
“The circumstances of this family are a troubling example of the human rights issues faced by people in Australia’s immigration detention framework,” the Human Rights Commission said in a statement.
Minister emphasises Government policy hasn’t changed
In his announcement that the family would be allowed to temporarily relocate to Perth while they appeal for permanent settlement, the Immigration Minister reiterated that the government’s policy on border protection had not changed.
“Anyone who arrives in Australia illegally by boat will not be resettled permanently,” he stated.
Priya and Nades, both Tamils, fled Sri Lanka amid the civil war and its aftermath, and settled in the town of Biloela in 2014 while awaiting a ruling on their asylum claims, which were rejected. Their two daughters were born in Australia, but this does not qualify them for citizenship.
Last week, Tharnicaa became seriously ill on the island and was flown with her mother to Perth for emergency care.