It seems Scott Morrison won’t intervene in the case of the Murugappan family if he wins the election and tell me why I’m not surprised.
Priya and Nades Murugappan are Tamil asylum seekers who separately came to Australia from Sri Lanka in 2012 and 2013. They met in the Queensland town of Biloela in 2014 and were granted temporary visas. They also have two Australian-born daughters, Kopika and Tharnicaa.
But after their temporary visas expired in 2018 the family was detained on Christmas Island. The family was moved to Perth after Tharnicaa had a medical emergency and needed to be treated in hospital.
The family was initially granted three month bridging visas in June 2021 while Tharnicaa was in hospital.
But then in September, Priya, Nades and Kopika were granted 12 month bridging visas — but Tharnicaa was not, despite literally being born here.
The Morrison government has refused to grant the Murugappan family permanent visas or let return to Biloela, even though it’s their home. Locals have been campaigning for the family to be allowed to return to Biloela ever since they were forcibly removed from the town.
Labor and The Greens have also supported the right of the Murugappan family to return to Biloela.
So what’s the situation ahead of the election?
Morrison was out campaigning in Western Sydney with Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Thursday. He was asked about the Murugappan family by Sydney Morning Herald and The Age reporters.
Morrison said the matter hadn’t been determined by the courts yet.
“There has been no finding of protection for the family, that is what our law requires for protection to be provided with such a visa,” he said.
“There is no protection owed. They have not been found to be refugees.
“Australia’s rules do not permit permanent visas for people who have not been found to be refugees. That is the government’s policy. It hasn’t changed.”
That answer’s been called out because actually, the immigration minister can issue visas on their own discretion.
I mean, Alex Hawke literally did it in April of 2022. British woman Rebecca Ellison had her request for permanent residency denied back in 2020 and has since been at risk of deportation.
But Hawke was able to step in and approve her permanent residency.
Speaking to the SMH, former deputy secretary in the Immigration Department Abul Rizvi pointed out that this is literally why we have ministerial discretion.
“There will always be exceptional cases where you will want to allow visas to be issued and to do that we created ministerial discretion,” Rizvi said.
“Morrison himself would have exercised this ministerial discretion when he was [immigration] minister – I don’t know how he’s forgotten.”
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Scott Morrison responded to the criticisms of his stance on Friday. He essentially eschewed any responsibility for the Murugappan family’s case.
He said there were two tracks to them receiving permanent visas.
“There’s the track in the courts and those courts have not found that under the refugee convention that a protection obligation is owed under that convention,” he said, as per SBS.
“The other track that is available is under ministerial intervention. And that ministerial intervention power is done by the [Immigration] minister. Not the prime minister.”
However, as pointed out by commentators like Sally Rugg, it’s not the courts who decide if someone is a refugee.
Morrison misleading public again on the Murraguppan family: “the courts found they were not refugees”.
Courts do not determine whether a person is a refugee.
The court can determine whether the department followed procedure & court ruled Tharni was denied fair process.
— Sally Rugg (@sallyrugg) May 20, 2022
As per News.com.au, Scott Morrison was also asked about his “empathy”.
“You said you would be more empathetic, this is one family you can change the lives of,” a reporter asked.
“The most empathetic thing when it comes to border protection, [is to] keep our borders secure,” Morrison replied.
Bleugh. Actually Scott, empathy is letting a family return to their home and the community who loves them.