The Tamil family at the centre of the current Immigration storm will be deported.
It is too public now.
The Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, and the Immigration Minister, Ian Coleman won’t back down now.
Dutton wants them deported. Coleman, allegedly, has privately indicated he would prefer the family stays.
Despite support from a wide range of people ― including Alan Jones, Barnaby Joyce, Anthony Albanese, Bill Shorten, the entire Biloela community (5,758 people), and over 200,000 signatories to an online petition – the family will be deported.
The Family’s Disputed Refugee Status
The legal question was whether the family were ever refugees. There seems no doubt that the family fled Sri Lanka due to a fear of persecution. However, the father travelled to the Middle East three times between 2001 and 2008, during the Sri Lankan civil war that supposedly finished in 2009. They arrived by boat separately in 2012 and 2013.
As such, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has evidence that the father is an economic refugee. The reality is that a United Nations study found that Sri Lanka had the second-highest number of disappearances in the world – 12,000 Sri Lankans disappeared after being detained by Sri Lankan security forces.
Every legitimate legal avenue has been appealed, and the family have lost every time. The problem is the initial decision was based on a DFAT briefing, not the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report. The family may well have qualified as refugees if the UN report had been considered.
Each appeal since has since has been decided on a question of law. The proper legal processes have been followed in each case. The family have lost every appeal up to the High Court of Australia.
Unfortunately, public advocacy has polarised the nation. See the hateful and hate-filled comments on social media.
Here’s an ABC article that explains why the family have not been considered refugees.
Here’s the rub – strict questions of legality simply don’t matter as the Immigration Minister has the powers to grant the family visas.
The Immigration Minister, ‘God Powers,’ and Intervention in The Family’s Matter
Immigration Minister Coleman has extraordinary intervention powers under Section 195A of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth).
These powers are non-reviewable, non-compellable, and they must be exercised by the Minister personally when acting in the national interest.
This article from the Sydney Morning Herald explains Minister Coleman’s ‘God Powers.’
The Section 195A powers won’t be exercised here.
Prime Minister Morrison and Minister Dutton oppose the intervention. Minister Coleman allegedly supports the use of the powers, but doesn’t want to overrule Morrison or Dutton. That stinks.
The argument to not exercise Section 195A powers relies upon rule-of-law. Since the family were found to not be refugees, apparently exercising these powers would ‘open the floodgates.’ We must abide by the rule of law.
Letting Them Stay: In Australia’s National Interest
There are strong arguments connecting Australia’s national interest with letting the family stay. In particular:
- The family have enormous support. The online petition has over 200,000 signatures. The family have complete support from the Biloela community.
- The family’s local community want them to stay. Country towns are crying out for young families. Australia’s immigration programmes encourage new migrants to settle in regional areas.
- Both children were born in Australia.
- There is no risk of ‘the boats’ restarting in the current environment. A total furphy.
- This matter has cost taxpayers millions of dollars so far. The family have been moved from one detention centre to the next by private aircraft.
The Australian Government are in a corner. They will not budge.
It would be simple for Minister Coleman to exercise his Section 195A powers and allow the family to stay.
Deportation will harm the family, the local community at Biloela, and Australia’s international standing.
Allowing the family to stay will offend the ‘Go Back Where You Came From’ crowd.
I know which option the government will choose.
Choose compassion and kindness, not narrow interpretations of the rule of law.