Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce has called on Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to personally intervene in the case a Tamil asylum seeker family marked for deportation, saying their two young children “are Australians, as far as the community is concerned.”

Speaking on Sunrise this morning, the former deputy prime minister called for leniency in the case of Priya and Nadesalingam, and their two young children, Kopika and Tharunicaa, whose lives in Australia were uprooted by a sudden deportation order last week.

Despite saying his Coalition colleague is in a “vexed position” regarding the Priya and Nadesalingam, who arrived in Australia by boat and were denied asylum seeker status, Joyce said Dutton should exercise his ministerial discretion and allow the children to remain in Australia.

The Home Affairs minister’s powers should be exercised to “bring a situation to a conclusion,” Joyce said, given the family’s contributions to their adopted home, the rural Queensland town of Biloela.

“These children were born in Australia, they are not their parents, and I think we have to consider it in a different light,” Joyce said.

Joyce’s public statement comes a day after Dutton penned a column in The Courier-Mail, defending the decision to boot the family out of Australia – and by extension, Australia’s harsh refugee policies.

“We do have to make tough decisions in some cases and compassionate decisions in others. We have been fair, clear and consistent for a long time: we are not allowing people who arrive by boat to settle in Australia,” Dutton said.

Dutton is known to exercise his ministerial discretion, most notably when he permitted a Liberal Party donor’s au pair to remain in the country despite a cancelled visa.

Priya, Nadesalingam, and their two children have reportedly been moved to the Christmas Island detention centre as they await developments in their case.

A court order has barred the deportation of Tharunicaa until 4pm Wednesday; whether or not Dutton acts on their case is another matter entirely.

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