Stop-the-Boats Morrison Continues to Brutalise Sick Australian-Born Infant

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Morrison and the Biloela family

Right now, 3-year-old Australian-born girl Tharnicaa Murugappan is undergoing treatment for a blood condition in a Perth hospital, because our Pentecostal PM and some of his underlings have been slowly torturing and depriving her in immigration detention for more than two years now.

Tharnicaa was medevaced from Christmas Island on Monday as her temperature had spiked, after the Australian Border Force denied repeated pleas to take her to hospital for 10 days, due to what turned out to be pneumonia, which has further developed into sepsis: blood poisoning.

Tharnicaa, and the rest of her family have been detained on Christmas Island for 18 months. Also known as the Biloela family, the Murugappans had already spent 20 months prior in a Melbourne immigration detention centre after the ABF raided their Queensland home.

The infant girl’s parents, Priya and Nades, are Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, who arrived by boat. Tharnicaa and her 6-year-old sister Kopika were born in this country. Federal migration laws class the entire family as “unlawful maritime arrivals”.

Under then home affairs minister Peter Dutton, the ABF detained the family as part of the government’s policy of deterrence, which sees asylum seekers brutalised to such a degree that it is supposed to stop others from arriving in Australian waters.

So, this 3-year-old infant’s life is being destroyed purposefully to set an example.

Tamil girl sick

Detained in our name

Tharnicaa and her sister Kopika have spent the majority of their lives locked up in prisons-by-another-name for the crime of being born to Tamil refugee parents.

Their parents haven’t committed any crimes, rather they fled persecution in their own country, under the auspices of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Nades and Priya arrived in Australian waters seeking asylum in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Having both fled Sri Lanka, the pair met in Australia, married, and lived peacefully in the Queensland rural town of Biloela.

The local community has been campaigning for their return since the family were forcibly removed in March 2018.

In February this year, the Federal Court upheld an earlier ruling that found Tharnicaa had been denied procedural fairness regarding her protection visa application, so the matter has to go back before the courts.

This ruling is preventing our PM of devout faith from sending the whole family back to face the risk of irreparable harm in Sri Lanka.

The ABF let Tharnicaa’s mother Priya accompany her to Perth on Monday evening. However, her father and sister had to remain on Christmas Island in detention.

The persecution in Sri Lanka

Twelve years after the Mullivaikkal massacre – which saw 70,000 Tamil civilians slaughtered by the Sri Lankan government – the Tamil people of Eelam in the north of the country continue to be a highly oppressed. There’s an estimated one police officer for every six Tamils in the region.

Former Australian diplomat Bruce Haigh served some of his years as a foreign representative of this country in Sri Lanka. He explained at a recent Tamil Day of Genocide rally in Sydney that the premise of keeping the Biloela family on Christmas Island as deterrence is a falsehood.

The reason for this is that Australia has established an arrangement with the Sri Lankan government whereby its agents stop refugee boats leaving their country. This arrangement, which is facilitated via cash payments, rules out any need to deter further Tamil refugees coming to Australia.

Haigh told Sydney Criminal Lawyers last month that what the continued detainment of the Biloela family actually points to is “that Morrison and Dutton don’t want to lose face”. So, according to him, “the family is hostage” to their “egos”.

Further inhumanity

“I am feeling very scared and worried for my little girl,” said Priya in a statement from Perth. “She has been sick for many days. It took a long time for her to get to the hospital. She is already asking for her papa. It is going to be very hard being away from her dad and sister.”

The outrage within the broader community over this young girl’s health emergency being directly caused by Morrison government policy is palpable.

The Tamil Refugee Council warned as far back as September 2018 that Kopika and Tharnicaa were already suffering a serious decline in their mental health, after having spent over half a year in the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation facility.

Despite the huge public outcry and widespread awareness of its actions, the Coalition is continuing to refuse to allow the family to return to the Australian mainland.

Instead, home affairs minister Karen Andrews said the government is “investigating a range of resettlement options”, these being New Zealand and the United States.

The recently appointed minister has obviously taken on her predecessor’s 2018 warning against showing “a single act of compassion” towards desperate refugees, whether that be those who come from another country or those who are born on Australian soil.

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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