Immigration minister Alex Hawke has announced the Tamil-Australian family formerly residing in Biloela but since detained on Christmas Island from 2019 will be reunited in Perth for an unspecified amount of time.
The Murugappan family lived in the rural Queensland town of Biloela for four years until they were removed by Australian Border Force officials in 2018, when their visas expired.
But the family’s youngest daughter, Tharnicaa, has been in a Perth hospital for more than a week, where she is being treated for sepsis and pneumonia. Tharnicaa celebrated her fourth birthday in hospital.
In a statement on Tuesday morning — following increased pressure on the Morrison government to reunite the Murugappan family — immigration minister Alex Hawke announced he had made a residence determination permitting the rest of the family to join Tharnicaa.
“The family will now reside in suburban Perth through a community detention placement, close to schools and support services, while the youngest child receives medical treatment from the nearby Perth Children’s Hospital and as the family pursues ongoing legal matters,” he said.
“Today’s decision releases the family from held detention and facilitates ongoing treatment, while they pursue ongoing litigation before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Federal Court and High Court. Importantly, today’s decision does not create a pathway to a visa.
“As required by court orders, I will consider at a future date whether to lift the statutory bar presently preventing members of the family from reapplying for temporary protection, for which they have previously been rejected.”
Hawke noted that the government had not changed its tough ‘border protection’ policy.
“Anyone who arrives in Australia illegally by boat will not be resettled permanently. Anyone who is found not to be owed protection will be expected to leave Australia,” he said.
“In making this determination I am balancing the government’s ongoing commitment to strong border protection policies with appropriate compassion in circumstances involving children in held detention.”
Shadow immigration minister Kristina Keneally said Hawke’s decision was ‘long overdue’, and has called on the government to allow the family to return to Biloela.