But Mr Morrison has dismissed their pleas as “Twitter public sentiment”. “It’s about doing the right thing by the national interest. It’s not about chasing public sentiment,” he said.
“I understand absolutely the motivation and the compassion that Australians have expressed in relation to this case. But I also know from bitter experience that if you make the wrong calls on these issues, then you invite tragedy and you invite chaos.”
Mr Morrison is encouraging the family to return to Sri Lanka, and then apply for fresh Australian visas.
The Federal Court in Melbourne on Wednesday extended the latest injunction protecting the family’s youngest child Tharunicaa – and by extension her family – from being deported until 4pm on Friday.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese travelled to Biloela to join the family’s supporters. The family lived in the Queensland town until they were removed in a pre-dawn raid last year.
Mr Albanese called on the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to intervene, something he said the minister had done thousands of times before.
“Just listen to the people behind us,” Mr Albanese said.
“What it is, simply, is what Peter Dutton has done on more than 4000 occasions as minister, on an average of three times every day he’s been a minister – using his ministerial discretion to say that it is in Australia’s national interest for this family to be restored into the community that they love and which clearly loves them.”
One of the family’s supporters, Laraine Webster, said she remained upset by the way they were taken from the town in the early hours one morning last year.
“It’s the way they were taken … in separate vans,” Ms Webster said. “They belong here. The community needs people.”
In Melbourne, the Federal Court heard Immigration Minister David Coleman on Tuesday night declined to use his discretionary powers to allow Tharunicaa to apply for a protection visa.
The toddler is considered an unauthorised maritime arrival, despite being born in Australia, because her parents arrived by boat. As such, she is unable to make a visa application from detention. The only way she could do that is for the minister to make an exception in allowing her to apply.
Justice Mordecai Bromberg will hear her case again on Friday morning. He asked for the matter to proceed on Friday “without any further surprises” after the Tuesday night development.
The family’s immigration lawyer Carina Ford said they were still “relatively distressed” on Christmas Island.
“We’re still in uncertain territory, but I guess the fight is not over yet,” she told reporters outside court on Wednesday.
Senior minister Mathias Cormann said the Tamil family’s pleas for protection had been comprehensively assessed by the government and the courts.
“At every step on the way, those assessments have confirmed they do not qualify to come to Australia as asylum seekers,” he told the ABC.
“This is about making sure we don’t send a signal to people smugglers who are out there waiting to see a weakening in the resolve of the Australian government in protecting our borders.”
How we got here
- Priya and Nadesalingam fled Sri Lanka separately by boat in 2012 and 2013 after the country’s civil war
- The couple met in Australia and married in 2014
- The couple’s eldest daughter Kopika, is born in Australia in 2015
- Kopika’s claim for asylum is processed with her mother’s. Nadesalingam is processed separately
- By the start of 2018, Nadeslingam’s claim is rejected and all of his avenues for appeal fail
- Priya and Kopika’s claims are also rejected and Priya’s bridging visa expires
- The family is detained after a raid on their Biloela home in March 2018 and they are moved to a Melbourne detention centre
- Priya and Kopika’s subsequent appeals go all the way to the High Court but are unsuccessful
- The family’s future rests on the youngest daughter Tharunicaa’s case because she was not born when Priya’s asylum claim was processed in late 2016
Rachel is a breaking news reporter for The Age.