Minister walks back Biloela resettlement

·3-min read

A Tamil family detained on Christmas Island will not have the option of resettlement in New Zealand or the US as supporters continue to lobby for their return to Queensland.

Three-year-old Tharnicaa is receiving treatment for a blood infection at Perth Children's Hospital after being evacuated from the island with her mother Priya Murugappan earlier this week.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has now slammed the door shut on the family being resettled in another country, contradicting a senior cabinet colleague.

"The family does not have access to those two programs because they are for resettlement of refugees," she told 4BC radio on Thursday.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Tuesday the United States and New Zealand were being looked at as relocation options.

Ms Andrews said courts had so far upheld the decision to deny the family refugee status.

"That means there is no obligation for us to provide protection to them, which means that they should be returning to their home country of Sri Lanka," she said.

Ms Andrews on Tuesday raised a "range of resettlement options" when asked about the family, who were taken from their home in Biloela and detained almost three years ago.

But the minister now insists she was making a general comment about refugees evacuated to Australia for medical reasons.

"It was not a comment specifically about that family."

At the time, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was quick to point out Ms Andrews was speaking generally.

The Biloela community and supporters of the family continue to campaign for ministerial intervention to allow them to return to their Queensland home.

A series of court orders has prevented them from being deported to Sri Lanka.

But the government has not wavered after the family's protection status was denied despite fears they may become targets for violence.

Priya, her husband Nades and their Australian-born daughters Tharnicaa and Kopika, 6, have been in detention since 2018.

Family friend Angela Fredericks said doctors had reported that antibiotics were working with Tharnicaa's body fighting the infection.

She is likely to remain in hospital until next week meaning her fourth birthday on Saturday will be spent in Perth.

"Tharni is very distressed to be separated from her sister and dad for the first time in her life. She does not understand this is temporary, despite Priya trying to reassure her," Ms Fredericks said.

The Home to Bilo campaign is calling on Ms Andrews to reunite the family in Perth while the three-year-old is being cared for.

Ms Andrews said allowing them to stay in Australia would undermine the government's pledge to never permanently resettle illegal boat arrivals.

"It's not a case of being mean - we are very strong as a government, and our policy in relation to our border protection. These are long-standing policies," she told the Seven Network.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese urged the government to return the family to Queensland.

"The fact that this young girl has had to be medically evacuated to a hospital in Western Australia, I think it brings us no credit as a nation," he told reporters in Townsville.

"Australia's better than that and we should do better for this family."

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