Barnaby Joyce weighs in on Tamil family and calls for daughters to be settled in Australia


Barnaby Joyce has called for the Biloela refugee family to be allowed to stay in Australia and claimed it wouldn’t be in question if their daughters were white girls named ‘Jane and Sally’.

Mr Joyce said three-year-old Tharnicaa Murugappan and her sister Kopika, 6, should be settled here permanently because they were born in Australia.

The sisters are the daughters of Nadesalingam and Priya and have been detained for three years as the family fights deportation to Sri Lanka.

Tharnicaa was last week evacuated to Perth to be treated for a blood infection and will require months of specialist treatment.

Barnaby Joyce has called for the daughters of the detained Tamil family to be settled in Australia and claimed it would be a different story if they were called 'Jane and Sally' (pictured, Mr Joyce appearing on Sunrise on Monday morning)

Barnaby Joyce has called for the daughters of the detained Tamil family to be settled in Australia and claimed it would be a different story if they were called ‘Jane and Sally’ (pictured, Mr Joyce appearing on Sunrise on Monday morning)

Distressing images of the three-year-old crying on a hospital bed has renewed calls to settle the family in Australia, with Mr Joyce the latest to join the chorus. 

‘Tharnicaa and Kopika were born in Australia,’ he said on Sunrise on Monday. 

‘Maybe if their names were Jane and Sally and they were playing the local netball side, we’d think twice about sending them back to another country which they’re not from.

‘Why not send them to Southern Sudan, why not send them to Rwanda to Belarus? They’re also countries they were never born in.’ 

Mr Joyce said anyone who was born in Australia had every right to stay in the country.

‘Tharnicaa and Kopika didn’t buy this ticket,’ he said. ‘I think it’s incumbent upon us, despite what the allegations might be against their parent or their father, who actually had a job, these people should be staying here.’ 

Mr Joyce made the call for three-year-old Tharnicaa Murugappan and her sister Kopika, 6, to be made permanent residents while appearing on Channel Seven's Sunrise on Monday morning

Mr Joyce made the call for three-year-old Tharnicaa Murugappan and her sister Kopika, 6, to be made permanent residents while appearing on Channel Seven’s Sunrise on Monday morning 

Tharnicaa and Kopika are the daughters of Nadesalingam and Priya and have been detained on Christmas Island for three years as the family fights deportation to Sri Lanka

Tharnicaa and Kopika are the daughters of Nadesalingam and Priya and have been detained on Christmas Island for three years as the family fights deportation to Sri Lanka

Pressure is mounting on the Morrison Government to let the family stay in Australia, with politicians from across the spectrum calling for them to be allowed to return to their adopted home of Biloela in Central Queensland.

Mr Morrison signalled his government could finally back away from its hardline stance and allow the family to stay in Australia, at least on a temporary basis.

‘There are options that are being considered that are consistent with both health advice and the humanitarian need and the government’s policy,’ he said.

However, the prime minister said permanent resettlement was out of the question.

‘That wouldn’t be government policy for a pathway to permanent settlement – that is not the government’s policy.’

Pressure is mounting on the Morrison government to let the family stay in Australia, with politicians from across the spectrum calling for them to be allowed to return to their adopted home of Biloela in central Queensland

Pressure is mounting on the Morrison government to let the family stay in Australia, with politicians from across the spectrum calling for them to be allowed to return to their adopted home of Biloela in central Queensland

Distressing images of the three-year-old crying on a hospital bed has renewed calls to settle the family in Australia with Mr Joyce the latest to join the chorus

Distressing images of the three-year-old crying on a hospital bed has renewed calls to settle the family in Australia with Mr Joyce the latest to join the chorus

With the decision pending, nine health organisations representing tens of thousands of medical experts across Australia have signed an open letter calling for the family’s release.

Paediatrician Jacqueline Small from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians said the children must be allowed to develop and grow in the community.

‘We feel very strongly keeping these children in held detention, particularly offshore detention, represents an extreme and unacceptable risk to the children’s health, development and mental wellbeing,’ she told ABC radio.

‘Given both children were in held detention from their toddlerhood, the risks are even higher.’

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke could allow the family to stay in Australia by granting a visa not reserved for refugees, such as skilled migrant or work permits.

Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon rejected the argument that showing the family compassion and exercising discretion would somehow restart the people-smuggling trade.

Tharnicaa was recently evacuated to Perth to be treated for a blood infection and will require months of specialist treatment

Tharnicaa was recently evacuated to Perth to be treated for a blood infection and will require months of specialist treatment

Tharnicaa and her older sister Kopika were both born in Australia after the couple established themselves in Biloela

Tharnicaa and her older sister Kopika were both born in Australia after the couple established themselves in Biloela

‘That would be a very, very hard argument to run,’ he said.

‘I don’t accept finding a solution – and surely we are smart enough to find a solution for this family – is going to open those floodgates again. I just don’t believe it.’

Priya and Nades Murugappan met after fleeing Sri Lanka’s civil war by boat in 2012 and 2013.

Tharnicaa and her older sister Kopika were both born in Australia after the couple established themselves in Biloela.

Their deportation from Australia is being fought in the courts.



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