A Testing Issue: The Nadesalingam Murugappan Asylum Claim

ONE = Simon Benson & Rosie Lewis, in The Australian, 4 September 2019, where the title runs “Tamil asylum case sets path for 6000 others”

Scott Morrison has vowed to send home more than 6000 illegal immigrants who have had their refugee claims rejected, as he brushed off Labor attempts to drag his religious faith into the debate over the deportation of a Sri Lankan family. The Australian revealed on Wednesday that those 6000 asylum-seekers are engaged in similar legal ­appeals to that of the Tamil family who will learn today whether their ­eleventh-hour Federal Court bid to prevent their ­deportation has succeeded.

The Prime Minister said he would seek to have all illegal immigrants whose refugee claims were rejected sent back to their country of origin, and re-iterated that the Tamil family would be able to apply to immigrate back to Australia from Sri Lanka. “These are people who have their refugee claims rejected … Yeah (they will be sent home) as they should be,” he told Melbourne’s 3AW. “I apply the same rules as that I apply to everybody else. That’s the whole point. To have fair immigration system, you don’t have special cases just because Twitter says so.”

Labor has repeatedly pointed to the fact that the government — including Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton — has intervened in more than 4000 immigration cases.

Mr Morrison said he cannot recall ever intervening to keep an illegal migrant in Australia. “I cannot recall an occasion where I would have done that,” he said. “I understand why Australians feel so strongly about this. I don’t for a second question their genuine compassion and motivation in raising this. I genuinely respect that.”

Labor’s home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally and opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon have both targeted Mr Morrison’s Christian faith in the Tamil family debate — a move that has divided the Opposition. Mr Morrison on Wednesday brushed off the attempts to turn his faith into a political wedge. “I turn the other cheek,” the Prime Minister said.

Resources Minister Matthew Canavan declared he has no problem with Labor raising Christian ethics, after opposition frontbenchers invoked Mr Morrison’s religion, but warned complex migration cases should not be decided through the media.

Senator Canavan, who lives a couple of hours from the Queensland town of Biloela where Nadesalingam “Nades” Murugappan, Kokilapathmapriya “Priya” Nadarasa and their two young daughters lived while on bridging visas, said he had great respect for the community and their advocacy but defended the government’s border protection policies.

We should not make these decisions through the media. It’s been unfortunate the way the Labor Party are seeking to jump on this individual case for political purposes,” Senator Canavan told Sky News. “We need to have a proper process involved here to assess each case properly and in the context of our overall policy. I think Peter Dutton is an incredibly fair … Minister and is making the right decisions in this case.”

Labor’s use of the Prime Minister’s Christianity in a political attack over the deportation of Nades and Priya triggered divisions within the ALP, with some opposition MPs including assistant immigration spokesman Andrew Giles saying religion was irrelevant in the Tamil family’s case.

But Senator Canavan said MPs had a right to raise Christian ethics, while accusing Senator Keneally of trying to make a contribution through a ten-second soundbite. Senator Keneally has demanded Mr Morrison “show Christian leadership” and intervene in the family’s case.

“I haven’t said the Labor Party shouldn’t raise matters of Christian ethics, I’ve got no problem with that per se,” Senator Canavan said. “There is a place for different ethical viewpoints to come into the policy sphere more often and we shouldn’t somehow say that any ethical system based on religious views is somehow not allowed to these sort of debates.

“Sometimes the bandied about of the word ‘Christian’ here is not particularly well thought through and not surprisingly the likes of Kristina Keneally are really trying to make a contribution through a ten-second sound bite on the news, not a detailed, ethical treatise about what should happen in these very complex circumstances.”

Era of Labor bipartisanship on borders over

Department of Home Affairs statistics reveal that successive Labor immigration ministers removed 2631 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers from the Australian community and onshore detention centres and returned them to Sri Lanka at the height of the border protection crisis between 2010 and 2013.

The backlog of legal cases involving people fighting to stay in Australia was revealed after opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said an Albanese government would “absolutely” be open to letting the Tamil family stay, despite the courts finding they were not genuine ­refugees. She said Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, by exercising ministerial discretion to let the family stay, would “not restart the boats”.

Mr Dutton hit back, declaring that the era of Labor bipartisanship on border protection under Bill Shorten’s leadership was over.

Departmental figures requested by The Australian show that as of Monday, 5757 asylum-seekers on bridging visas living in the Australian community were pursuing legal challenges after they were found not to be owed protection under Australian law. All arrived under the Labor government between 2009 and 2013.

According to official figures, the Rudd/Gillard government returned 180 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers in 2010-11, a further 385 in 2011-12 and 2066 in 2012-13 on the basis that they were economic ­migrants and not refugees.

“The bipartisan policy on borders championed by Mr Shorten is now dead and (Labor leader) Mr Albanese has reverted back to his position at previous Labor conferences where he has voted against tough border policies,” Mr Dutton told The Australian. He said Senator Keneally had been “a terrible premier and her lack of judgment is on display again now”. “People-smugglers would be partying long into the night if Labor wins the next election because Ms Keneally and Mr Albanese have now adopted an effective open-border policy,” Mr Dutton said.

Nadesalingam Murugappan and his wife, Kokilapath­mapriya Nadarasa, came to Australia from Sri Lanka illegally in 2012 and 2013 respectively and were rejected as refugees. They have been living in the rural town of Biloela on bridging visas, which expired last year, having had two children while in Australia. All their legal bids to challenge the Department of Immigration’s initial ruling have been rejected by multiple courts. They were being returned by charter flight to Sri Lanka on Thursday last week when a court injunction forced their plane to land in Darwin. The family has since been taken to Christmas Island.

Previous High Court appeals on behalf of the two adults and the eldest child have all failed.However, a court ordered that they should not be removed until at least We dnesday afternoon, giving time to hear the youngest daughter’s claim for protection.

Yesterday, a jet delivered 12 Australian Federal Police officers to Christmas Island from Canberra, triggering speculation that the government was preparing to deport the Tamil family swiftly if they were unsuccessful in Wednesday’s Federal Court hearing.

The Australian has been told the officers who arrived onTuesday are members of the specialist response group. The Australian Federal Police website says it is a squad formed in 2012 to provide “dynamic specialist policing ­capabilities that are professional and flexible in support of AFP domestic and international operations”.

As well as the 5757 asylum-­seekers fighting to stay in Australia, another 7900 people who arrived by boat under the previous Labor government have not had refugee claims processed.

Mr Dutton accused Mr Albanese of pursuing the mantle of “Mr Popular” in his calls for the family to stay. He said the family had “dragged out” their stay in Australia and delayed deportation by launching multiple ­appeal processes. The move, he said, made it “unfair” for the family to claim they had established strong community connections.

“I do think it’s excessive when it goes on for a number of years,” Mr Dutton said. “I think it’s unfair to the children in this case when the parents have been given a very definite decision when they (were told) they weren’t going to stay in Australia many years ago.

“But clearly every decision-maker right to the High Court has found they’re not refugees.”

Mr Albanese called on Mr Dutton to intervene in the deportation in the same way the minister had intervened in the case of two au pairs he helped release from immigration detention. After Senator Keneally tried to use Scott Morrison’s faith as a ­political wedge over the ­Coalition’s position on the Tamil family, Labor’s assistant immigration spokesman, Andrew Giles, on Tuesday broke ranks with his frontbench colleague.

Mr Giles — promoted in June to be the second half of Labor’s home affairs and immigration team — said religion was “not at the core of the issue” of the Tamil family debate, but the former lawyer who represented ­asylum-seekers after the 2001 Tampa stand-off insisted allowing the family to stay would not set a ­precedent.

Coalition MP Ken O’Dowd, the member for Flynn, which includes the Queensland town of Biloela, said he had been speaking with Mr Dutton, Immigration Minister David Coleman and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack in the past 48 hours after years of making representations on behalf of the family. Mr O’Dowd wants the family to stay and said their possible ­deportation was sad.

Additional reporting: Rosie Lewis, Richard Ferguson, Paige Taylor

    *****  ****

TWO: Olivia Caisley & Remy Varga:  “Dutton lashes out at Labor leader over asylum ‘hypocrisy’,”  4 September 2019. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/dutton-lashes-out-at-labor-leader-over-asylum-hypocrisy/news-story/592ac40de539b69698e64c65387eb80d

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has lashed out at Anthony ­Albanese’s response to Australia’s asylum-seeker policy, saying his contradictory position on deporting those that don’t qualify as refugees, reinforces why Labor “cannot be trusted” on Australian borders. It came after the Labor leader called for compassion and common sense on Wednesday as he ramped up his appeal to the government to overturn its decision to deport a Tamil family after they were rejected as asylum-seekers.

An injunction against the family’s deportation has been extended until Friday, when their case returns to the Federal Court in Melbourne.

On Wednesday, Mr Albanese visited the family’s former community in the central Queensland town of Biloela. “It’s not too late for the government to recognise that this isn’t a threat to its immigration policy. It’s not a threat to Australia’s borders,” he said. “What it is, simply, is what Peter Dutton has done on more than 4000 occasions as minister, on an average of three times every day he’s been a minister. Using his ministerial discretion to say that it is in Australia’s national interest for this family to be restored into the community that they love and which clearly loves them.”

When asked by reporters if Labor still believed people who came to Australia without a visa shouldn’t be resettled, Mr Albanese said the party supported offshore and regional processing, however, the family’s unique circumstances “required ministerial discretion”.

But Mr Dutton said it was “all too easy” for Mr Albanese to take this position without having to worry about any of the potential consequences. “He was one of the senior ministers sitting around the cabinet table when decisions were made that resulted in 1200 people drowning at sea,” Mr Dutton told The Australian.

At a press conference in 2013, the then deputy prime minister defended Labor’s asylum-seeker arrangement with Papua New Guinea, telling reporters those that came to Australia by boat without a visa wouldn’t be allowed to stay. “The message is very clear: if you come to Australia by boat without a visa, you will not be settled in Australia,” Mr Albanese said then.

Mr Albanese added that the difficult solution was necessary because it had destroyed the people-smuggler’s business model and stopped people drowning at sea — a message echoed by Mr Dutton in Perth on Tuesday. Again, in July 2013, Mr Albanese told ABC News Breakfast that asylum-seekers who were not deemed to be genuine refugees would not be resettled in Australia and would be repatriated either to their country of origin or to a third country.

Nadesalingam Murugappan and his wife, Priya Nadarasa, came to Australia from Sri Lanka illegally in 2012 and 2013 respectively and were rejected as refugees. They have been living in rural Biloela on bridging visas, which expired last year, having had two children while in Australia.

Their legal bids to challenge the Department of Immigration’s initial ruling have been rejected by multiple courts. Scott Morrison is encouraging the Tamil family to return to Sri Lanka, and then apply for fresh Australian visas. “If Priya and Nades and Kopika and Tharunicaa want to then come to Australia, like 1500 who have already been sent back before them, well then they can seek to do that,” he told 3AW radio.

On Wednesday in the Federal Court, Judge Mordy Bromberg — who once ran unsuccessfully for ALP preselection — granted an injunction to prevent Tharunicaa, the couple’s two-year-old daughter, from being removed from Australian soil until 4pm Friday.

 

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