Is THIS what Border Protection in Australia is about?
“The close-knit community of Biloela in central Queensland has been shocked by an early morning Australian Border Force raid on a Sri Lankan asylum seeker family – including two Australian-born children – over a visa expired by a single day. …Husband and wife Nadesalingam and Priya and their Australia-born daughters, nine-month-old Dharuniga and two-year-old Kopiga, were forcibly taken, without warning, into immigration detention in Melbourne, more than 1,500km from their home. The family has been told they face imminent deportation.”
Today the Guardian has reported on yet another case of the Australian Border Force (ABF) using its powers in ways that Australians citizens are so opposed to that a regional community is speaking out.
ABF officials, accompanied by police and Serco guards, arrived at the Biloela family’s home at 5am on Monday 5 March. The family said they were given 10 minutes to pack and driven to Gladstone airport where they were flown to Melbourne where they are currently in immigration detention under threat of “removal from Australia“.
Their friends, neighbours and workmates – the community of Biloela – has long supported the family and are outraged by what has happened … and what may happen.
“People are just appalled that this is happening in Australia, that people can be treated this way. Everyone who had anything to do with this family wrote letters to the minister for immigration before Christmas asking for the family to be granted permanent protection. We can’t understand why this would happen.”
Nadesalingam and Priya met and married in Australia, their children were born in Australia and Nades was working at the local meatworks in Biloela. The couple had separately fled Sri Lanka’s brutal 26-year civil war and each arrived in Australia via boat to seek asylum. Nades had links to the former separatist army, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and so would face persecution should he return to Sri Lanka. However, his application for protection has been rejected and his appeal options have been exhausted. Priya’s bridging visa expired on 4 March but prior to that she was in regular communication with a case worker from the Department of Home Affairs to have it renewed and says she was told that she would be receiving a new visa by mail from the department.
A spokesperson from the Home Affairs Department told the Guardian that the family had “consistently been found 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. Those unwilling to depart voluntarily will be subject to detention and removal from Australia.”
Does Australia really need protection from families who are living quiet lives, contributing to their local communities and following all appropriate legal procedures to remain?
THIS IS NOT AN ISOLATED INCIDENT. THERE HAVE BEEN MANY SIMILARLY SHOCKING ACTIONS UNDERTAKEN BY THE DEPARTMENT OF HOME AFFAIRS. AND THERE ARE LIKELY TO BE MANY MORE IF THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT’S APPROACH DOES NOT CHANGE SIGNIFICANTLY.
For example, another Tamil asylum seeker, Shantaruban, whose claim for protection was denied in Australia, was deported back to Sri Lanka last month. He has reported consistent harassment by security officials since being returned.
And beyond the situations we hear about, it’s very likely that there are incidents that occur without the knowledge of the public, refugee advocates or the media.