Fri, 06 Aug 2021

SYDNEY - An Australian official says a Sri Lankan Tamil family that had unsuccessfully sought asylum and was then held on a remote Indian Ocean island cannot be resettled in New Zealand or the United States, as earlier suggested.

"Please help us to get her out of detention and home to Biloela." Priya Nadesalingdram pleads on social media for her daughter's freedom as the 3-year-old recovers from sepsis and pneumonia. The pair was flown to a hospital in Perth, leaving another daughter and the children's father on Christmas Island, a remote Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.

The Tamil family was denied asylum by the Australian government in 2018 and have been held for more than three years. The government has said they have no right to stay in Australia. They were taken from their home in the state of Queensland and sent to a Christmas Island detention center in 2019.

Earlier this week, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews suggested at a press conference they could be resettled in the United States or New Zealand.

Opposition Labor leader Anthony Albanese told a news conference this week their treatment had been appalling.

"These young girls are Queenslanders," he said. "They should be brought home. The idea that we are looking for other nations to take them is quite frankly breathtaking. They should be granted visas based upon the ministerial discretion."

Andrews has now said the Tamil family can't be resettled in another country because resettlement arrangements with New Zealand and the U.S. apply only to official refugees.

The Australian government won't compromise tough immigration laws that allow for the indefinite detention of so-called unlawful noncitizens -- those without a valid visa.

Andrews says the measures have stopped migrants risking their lives trying to reach Australia by boat.

"It is not a case of being mean," she said. "We are very strong as a government in our policy in relation to our border protection. These are longstanding policies and, quite frankly, I am not going to have people die trying to come to Australia by sea on my watch. So, let's not forget the history. We know that more than 1,200 people actually died trying to get here. Now, having said that I am assured by Border Force that they are doing everything they can to make sure that that particular family is well accommodated on Christmas Island."

The two children were born in Queensland after their parents arrived by boat from Sri Lanka nearly a decade ago.

Legal efforts to stop their deportation continue.

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