Priya and her husband Nadesalingam (known as Nades) came to Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013, and their friends and support groups say they fled Sri Lanka because of the persecution of Tamils. After coming to Australia, Priya and Nades met, married and settled in the central Queensland town of Biloela where they lived and worked for about four years. They had two daughters, both born in Australia; the eldest Kopika is now 4, while the youngest, Tharunicaa is now 21.
After their bridging visas expired the previous day, at 5am on the 5th of March, 2018, blackshirted Border Force and Serco guards raided the family home in Biloela, and the family were given 10 minutes to pack their belongings before they were taken away, and driven to a nearby airport before being flown over 1500 km to Melbourne where they have been held in detention ever since. As if this was not enough, when they were driven to the airport, the two little girls travelled in the same van as their mother, Priya, but were not allowed to sit with her; just another little instance of added unnecessary cruelty. While in detention, the youngest daughter, Tharunicaa, took her first steps, and Kopika turned 4 and was not allowed to have a cake2,3.
The federal government said that the family’s status had been under investigation for ‘many years’ and was ultimately found to ‘not to meet Australia’s protection obligations’ and that ‘foreign nationals who do not hold a valid visa and who have exhausted all outstanding avenues to remain in Australia are expected to depart voluntarily to their country of citizenship’. If they do not depart voluntarily, they ‘will be subject to detention and removal from Australia’3.
The family had an appeal against their proposed deportation rejected by the Federal Circuit Court in June 2018, and the judge noted that Nades had travelled to Sri Lanka on three occasions and there was no evidence to suggest his family in Sri Lanka was at risk of persecution. However, it has been stated by an advocate for the family that all their family are either dead, killed or have left Sri Lanka as refugees and are in other countries. An application to appeal to the High Court was denied3.
On Thursday last (August 29), just after 8.00pm the ‘Home to Bilo’ advocacy group tweeted that the family were being deported and were taken to Melbourne Airport without any warning. Even this time the two little girls were put in one van while their mother travelled in a different van; yet another added gratuitous bit of cruelty. The plane, with the family on board departed just before 11.00pm. However, an interim injunction was granted over the phone, to prevent them leaving the country. The plane landed in Darwin shortly before 3.00am on Friday, and the family were taken from it and were held in a hotel at the airport. On Friday morning, the Federal Court ruled that the youngest daughter, Tharunicaa, could not be deported until 4.00pm on Wednesday, 4th of September1.
On Friday, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said he wanted the family to accept they were not refugees and wouldn’t be able to stay in Australia. As the family’s lawyer Carina Ford said, “it’s now up to the Government to decide if they will proceed with the removal of other family members” and that “it would be pretty inhumane to separate the family at this time”. So what did the government do? It moved them all to Christmas Island detention centre5. This was to keep them out of the view of their supporters; just another vindictive action.
Why would the Morrison government do this? Why would they send a small family, including their young children, to a country they have never known, away from a town in which they have integrated and obtained employment? Is it because they are not white people? Is it because they are not Christians? Is it because they are not au-pairs for their mates?5
The Oxford English Dictionary has, as one of the definitions of the word ‘monster’ as: “A person of repulsively unnatural character, or exhibiting such extreme cruelty or wickedness as to appear inhuman”6. In this case it seems to perfectly describe the people who are party to this inhuman treatment of this family. We have a government of monsters.
Even worse, is that the members of the government cover their disgusting behaviour with a façade of Christian piety. It is no wonder that people are leaving the churches in droves, because many of them are people with empathy and compassion (qualities so alien to Dutton and Morrison), and can readily spot a money-grubbing, power hungry fraud. As Timothy Egan from the New York Times says, these church leavers come to “hate religion because, at a moment to stand up and be counted on the right side of history, religion is used as moral cover for despicable behaviour7,8. Amen.