(photo courtesy SBS News, 16 September, 2021 )
By Spencer Gear PhD
As a person who is actively interested in Australian politics, I was shocked by what seemed to be a lie perpetrated in the leaders’ debate on 8 May 2019 with a potential audience of millions.
In his opening reply to a question from the moderator, Sabra Lane, Scott Morrison discussed the unpopular turn-back-the boats policy that was eventually successful and saved many lives. Then he added, “We’ve got every child out of detention”.
Later he repeated it: “Ultimately, we’ve got every child out of detention”. That is fake news. What is the truth about children in detention?
If you read the change.org petition link, “Our PM knows these kids are suffering. See https://www.change.org/p/peter-dutton-bring-priya-back-to-biloela/u/24530228 of 9 May, where you’ll discover that there are still children in detention in Australia
This link begins with what Scott Morrison said at the 3rd leaders’ debate. “Ultimately, we’ve got every child out of detention. Ultimately, we’ve got every child out of detention. Ultimately, we’ve got every child out of detention. Ultimately, we’ve got every child out of detention. Ultimately, we’ve got every child out of detention, etc.”
He repeated this slogan over and over. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ypddAEAQFI&feature=youtu.be. However, these two little Sri Lankan children have been in detention for 15 months. Their father has been evicted from Australia and been returned to Sri Lanka. His wife and children may never see him again.
The Scriptures exhort Australia and individuals, “Whoever gives to the poor will have plenty. Whoever refuses to help them will get nothing but curses” (Proverbs 28:27).
This is a callous government that splits up families against the UNHCR’s pleading and legal representation. Where are the mercy and compassion of the people (including the Minister of Immigration) in this department to devastate a family this way?
As I watched the debate, I shouted to myself, ‘That is not the case. That is not the case. He’s lying’.
I was thinking of Priya, Nades (Thileepan) and their two beautiful children (born in Biloela Qld), Kopika and Tharunicaa who are Sri Lankan Tamil refugees who were wonderfully assimilated into the small central Qld town of Biloela.
That was until they were reefed out of their Biloela house in the early hours of the morning and whisked away to be eventually placed in a detention centre 15 months ago.
The change.org petition has been signed by 184,000 people. From this petition, I learned that after months of severe vitamin deficiencies and dental problems little Tharunicaa’s mouth hurt so much she couldn’t eat solid food.
Because we need sunlight to receive vitamin D to strengthen teeth and bones, the children have suffered from this deficiency. In addition they need fresh and healthy food and access to proper medical care.
These children ‘have been locked indoors for most of the last 15 months. Fresh food is restricted and visitors are banned from bringing it with them. And when Priya begs for her kids to see a doctor, she is fobbed off with Panadol’.
They have been refused visas to stay in Australia by the Department of Home Affairs and right now the mother and two children are in a Melbourne detention centre. To say that ‘ultimately, we’ve got every child out of detention’ is a whopper!
Sadly, it seems that Scott Morrison lied over and over with his repeated statement. The children and parent in this family are still locked away in detention. The Coalition does not deserve to be in government when it treats people like this and tells this kind of lie.
Have they forgotten that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’? Giving a comfortable and peaceful life to Mum, Dad and the two children should be a top priority for this government.
According to The Guardian Australia, in July 2018 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR), Andrej Mahecic, said from Geneva, that Nades’ expulsion from Australia contravened ‘the basic right of family unity, as well as the fundamental principle of the best interests of the child’.
In spite of the UNHCR trying to gain assurances from the Coalition government that Nades ‘would not be removed from Australia and be allowed to remain with his family’, there were multiple requests lodged by legal representatives for intervention by the Minister for Home Affairs, but ‘collective representations were unsuccessful’.
I attempted to obtain an update on this situation from the UNHCR in the ACT by asking two questions: “Are mother and two children being allowed to remain in Australia permanently?”
Secondly, “What is the situation for the husband Thileepan who has been returned to Sri Lanka by the Australian government? Has any progress been made by the UNHCR in its further negotiations with the Australian Department of Home Affairs/Immigration for him to be reunited with his family?”
Unfortunately, I was unable to progress this inquiry because of the UNHCR’s response: “For reasons of confidentiality and protection, UNHCR does not comment on individual refugee cases”.
In the final week of this election campaign, the LNP can live up to its promises of no children in detention and release this family from the Melbourne detention centre and bring the father back from Sri Lanka.
Then, I urge the Coalition to apologise to this family for the trauma it has unnecessarily inflicted on them. It is a priority to grant them permanent residency and pay for their return fares to the Biloela community in Qld.
 I am a retired counselling manager, a minister with the Christian & Missionary Alliance of Australia, researcher, and freelance writer. My PhD is in New Testament from the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 September 2021.