Tamil family’s lawyers know nothing of potential resettlement offers

Biloela mother Priya Murugappan with her sick daughter Tharnicaa at Perth Children's Hospital.

Biloela mother Priya Murugappan with her sick daughter Tharnicaa at Perth Children's Hospital. Photo: AAP

The lawyer for Tamil asylum seekers detained on Christmas Island say they have heard nothing from the federal government about the prospect of the family being sent to the US or New Zealand.

The Murugappan family’s lawyer Carina Ford has responded to suggestions the two countries were likely destinations, as the federal government continues to reject pleas they be allowed to remain in Australia.

“For the record we and our clients have not been approached about this by the government – we have written to the Department of Home Affairs to ask why,” Ms Ford tweeted.

The family has been on the island, far off the Western Australian coast, for two years after being removed by federal authorities from their home in Biloela, Queensland.

The Home Affairs Department had been threatening to send them back to Sri Lanka, despite the family’s pleas they would be targeted.

It came as the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians joined calls to let the family leave detention and return to Biloela.

On Tuesday, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said “a range of resettlement options” were under negotiation.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne later expanded on that, saying the US and NZ were options.

“I do know that the Minister for Home Affairs, Ms Andrews, has indicated that there are two options there and the United States and New Zealand are both in the frame,” she told Sydney radio 2GB.

The family has an ongoing court proceeding related to their case, which would normally preclude any sudden change in their resettlement status.

The couple’s youngest daughter, three-year-old Tharnicaa, is being treated at the Perth’s Children’s Hospital after being medically evacuated from Christmas Island with her mother Priya Murugappan this week.

She has septicaemia, which the family’s supporters have linked to untreated pneumonia.

“We’ve had two delays in treatment here, which has led to this crisis point,” family supporter Angela Fredericks said on Tuesday.

Ms Murugappan has said her daughter was sick for almost two weeks but medical contractors at the immigration detention centre repeatedly refused to take her to hospital.

“I want to thank everybody for their love and good wishes,” she said in a video message late on Tuesday as she cradled her daughter.

“I hope that Tharnicaa can get the help she needs now. Please, help us to get her out of detention and home to Biloela.”

Contractor IHMS said said on Wednesday the young girl had received “appropriate and timely medical care”.

“Due to privacy reasons we are unable to respond to specific questions relating to the medical treatment and condition of the individual.

“IHMS and its employees take the health and welfare of all our clients very seriously and work tirelessly to support all those in our care.”

Home Affairs and Australian Border Force said Tharnicaa – who turns four later this week – had received medical treatment and daily monitoring on Christmas Island consistent with medical advice.

“As soon as the ABF was advised by the treating medical practitioners that the minor required medical treatment in Western Australia, the minor was transferred to a hospital in Western Australia,” an official said.

“The Australian Border Force strongly denies any allegations of inaction or mistreatment of individuals in its care.”

Healthcare for detainees was “broadly comparable” with that on the mainland, the government has said.

Ms Murugappan, her husband Nades and their Australian-born daughters Tharnicaa and Kopika, 6, have been in detention since 2018, and on Christmas Island since August 2019.

The government has previously vowed to never permanently resettle anyone who arrives illegally by boat.

Supporters of the family will hold candlelight vigils outside the Perth Children’s Hospital on Wednesday night and at Sydney Town Hall on Thursday.

-with AAP

Topics: Biloela
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