Peter Dutton has warned the Federal Court case over a Biloela family being detained on Christmas Island could drag out for months as he accused the parents of using their child as leverage to seek asylum.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has warned the fate of a Biloela family being detained on Christmas Island may not be decided for months.
Speaking to 2GB, Mr Dutton said the long-running fight for Australian protection had cost taxpayers "literally millions of dollars", saying there was no immediate end in sight to their Federal Court case.
Priya and Nadesalingam and their two children Kopika, 4, and Tharnuicaa, 2, have been held on Christmas Island since plans to deport the family were blocked by a last minute injunction.
In his interview with 2GB presenter Ray Hadley, Mr Dutton made reference to so-called “anchor babies” – a term used for instances when families use their children to help justify their migration cases.
“We see that overseas in other countries – anchor babies, so-called – and the emotion of trying to leverage a migration outcome based on the children,” he said.
“It’s been made very clear to them at every turn that they were not going to stay in Australia and they still had children.”
The Sri Lankan couple came separately to Australia by boat several years ago before marrying, having two children and settling in the central Queensland town of Biloela.
They are now in detention on Christmas Island as the Federal Court decides whether the youngest child is eligible for protection in Australia.
Supporters of the family rejected the 'anchor babies' accusation.
“The facts are that the conditions of Nades’ visa prevented him from leaving and then returning to Australia," said family friend Simone Cameron.
"After arriving in Australia in 2012, Nades was issued a bridging visa that did not allow him to exit and return to Australia, making what Mr Dutton says untrue and simply impossible - the Minister should know that.”
The family is awaiting a court hearing later this month to decide on the asylum claim for their youngest daughter.
Mr Dutton said the latest legal challenge could take months to resolve.
"I think it will go on now for potentially a couple of months because lawyers will try and delay and that's part of the tactic," he said.
"They think that if they delay, they can keep the pressure up on the government and we'll change our mind in relation to this case."
Labor's home affairs spokeswoman, Kristina Keneally, first raised the prospect of debate around the Biloela family straying into "anchor baby" territory during an ABC radio interview last week.
"This is an importation, quite frankly, of an American debate about so called 'anchor babies' and the law is very different in the United States where citizenship is accorded to anybody born on American soil," she said.
"That is not the law in Australia so it's an importation of that debate."
Senator Keneally said the real issue at hand was that Biloela locals and Australians more broadly had embraced the family and want them to be integrated into the community.
"It's not simply the act of having a child," she said.
Mr Dutton said the government’s position remained firm.
“We’ve looked at these cases very closely. These people are not refugees,” he said.
“There are 6,000 people behind them who have similar family compositions.”
“I don’t know if you say yes to this family that you can say no to the 6,000 behind.”
Additional reporting: AAP