I don’t often find myself agreeing with Barnaby Joyce. But this week, it seems we’ve found ourselves on the same side of a big issue.
Joyce is backing calls for Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to intervene in the case of Tamil couple Priya and Nadesalingam, and their Australian-born children.
The family is currently on track to be sent back to Sri Lanka – despite the fact that they arrived in our country as asylum seekers, who fled Sri Lanka during the civil war because of persecution of the Tamil people.
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Australia is the only home their two kids have ever known.
There are some calls from the public to send them back to Sri Lanka because they “arrived illegally”.
But that is exactly what seeking asylum is: it happens when a person has a well-founded fear of being persecuted due to forces outside of their control, so they flee to another country for safety and protection.
When you are desperately fleeing a country, in fear for your lives, there are not always “proper channels” to go through. Corruption is rife, and processes and procedures are unreliable.
To all the people who have no pity for these “queue jumpers”, I want to know; if you were faced with a life of violence and uncertainty, would you really suck it up and try only to go through the proper channels? Or would you explore every single possibility to escape and begin a new, safer life?
In the case of this family, they have become model citizens. They are taxpayers, they work and live in the community in central Queensland, and they have ingratiated themselves into the Australian culture.
However, Dutton is sticking by his decision to deport the family, which he says “didn’t come to the country in the appropriate way”.
“To exercise intervention powers on this, would be to send exactly the wrong message to those who are looking to sell tickets to vulnerable people looking to get on boats,” he says.
Joyce, who is now a backbench Nationals MP, is arguing that Immigration Minister David Coleman has the discretion to overturn the deportation, without it setting a precedent. He offers this analogy:
“If I’m driving… and I’m going at 140km/hr to get a child to the hospital, the policeman has a constabulary right. He can say ‘look, you should slow down, you are against the law, we’re not going to change the law for you’. But because of other circumstances, completely beyond what we would generally accept, we will let you off this time, don’t do it again.”
Should this family be sent back to Sri Lanka – or should we show some compassion and let them stay in Australia to continue living the life they’ve worked hard to build here?