Australian high school student addresses UN, calls for end to 'cruel, inhumane' treatment of two Tamil refugees

Renuga Inpakumar has called on the federal government to end the detention of Sivaguru Navanthirasa and Loganathan Janurupan.

Renuga Inpakumar prior to addressing the United Nations

Renuga Inpakumar prior to addressing the United Nations Source: Facebook

A Sydney high school student has used her opportunity to speak at the United Nations as a platform to make the case for two Tamil refugees being held in a Melbourne detention centre.

Renuga Inpakumar, from Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta in Sydney's west, travelled to Geneva, Switzerland to address the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The 17-year-old refugee activist took aim at the Australian government, accusing officials of failing to honour its obligations to those in need.

"The continued detention of individuals who have been the subject of persecution during the Sri Lankan genocidal war against Tamils and clear intent to seek refugee and protection in Australia shares no spirit of brotherhood," Ms Inpakumar said.

"In fact, it breaches the spirit of brotherhood and other obligations owed by Australia to the international community and the two refugees (in question)."

Ms Inpakumar is a passionate advocate for the two men, Sivaguru Navanthirasa and Loganathan Janurupan, whom she says have languished in "various Australian detention centres for more than 10 years."

Ms Inpakumar meets with UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Gillian Triggs.
Ms Inpakumar meets with UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Gillian Triggs. Source: Facebook

In casting a critical eye on Australia's immigration policies, the year 12 student urged the United Nations to assess the situation and intervene as necessary.

"Is the treatment of these refugees just in accordance with the (UN) charter's vision? if not, I implore you to act on this matter urgently," Ms Inpakumar said.

The Tamil plight

The Australian Tamil Congress has previously criticised Australia's authorities for detaining asylum seekers despite fears surrounding human rights concerns and ongoing militarisation in Sri Lanka.

A Sri Lankan Tamil family who settled in Queensland is facing a months-long wait to learn if they'll be allowed to return home.

Two days of Federal Court hearings over the removal of Priya and Nades Murugappan and their Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharunicaa, aged four and two, wrapped up in Melbourne last month.

No date has been set for Justice Mark Moshinsky to hand down his decision on whether the family will be allowed to leave Christmas Island, where they are currently being held, and return to the regional community of Biloela.

'Tough decisions'

has come under sustained pressure from refugee advocacy groups who have condemned Australia's border control measures.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has strongly defended Australia's immigration policies.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has coronavirus. Source: AAP

Mr Dutton remains steadfast in his policy position, frequently promoting the government's stricter policies on those looking to come to Australia.

After challenging former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull for the Liberal Party leadership in 2018, Mr Dutton said he is proud of the tough decisions he has made to keep Australia safe.

“When we have the threats that we do to a country like ours, you do have to make tough decisions, and you do have to make tough decisions that are ultimately in the best interests of all Australians,” he said.

“I’ve done that in relation to border protection, I have done that in relation to the Home Affairs portfolio.”

SBS News has contacted the Department of Home Affairs for comment.

3 min read
Published 7 March 2020 at 5:43pm
By Adam Marsters