Keneally calls on PM to show 'Christian leadership' on Tamil family case

Labor's Kristina Keneally has called on the Prime Minister to act as a Christian and stop the deportation of a Tamil family whose two children were born in Australia.

Labor's Kristina Keneally has appealed to Prime Minister Scott Morrison as a Christian and a father, urging him to allow a Tamil family at the centre of a dramatic deportation case to stay in Australia. 

"The Prime Minister is a father and I appeal to him as a parent and as a Christian to look into his heart and decide what the generous Christian response here is," she told reporters in Canberra on Friday morning. 

Senator Keneally said she was reluctant to mix religion and politics, but in the case of the Tamil family who had made Biloela in Queensland their home before being placed in immigration detention last year, she said it was appropriate. 

The family's fate will be considered at an urgent court hearing in Melbourne today.
Source: Supplied

"This is an opportunity for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to show what Christian leadership looks like. It is compassion. It is welcome.

"It is a story of the good Samaritan and the people of Biloela have been showing that by their advocacy and their fierce determination to return this family of four home to that community."

But the government is showing no signs of budging. 

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the family are not refugees and don't deserve Australia's protection.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says the Tamil family do not deserve Australia's protection.
Source: AAP

And it's time for Priya and her husband Nadesalingam, who came separately to Australia by boat to escape Sri Lanka's civil war, to go back, he added.

Immigration officials and a succession of courts, right up to the High Court, had not found in favour of the asylum seeker couple and their two Australian born daughters.

"I would like the family to accept that they are not refugees, they're not owed protection by our country," Mr Dutton told Nine's Today program on Friday.

"They came here by boat and we've been very clear that they wouldn't stay."

He added 1,500 people had been deported from Australia to Sri Lanka following the end of the civil war, including others on the plane last night who were returning "voluntarily".

But the family's battle to stay is not over yet after a judge dramatically halted their deportation overnight after they were taken from immigration detention in Melbourne and bundled onto a plane which took off around 11pm on Thursday.

When the plane stopped to refuel in Darwin, the family was taken off the aircraft on the judge's orders.

The injunction, issued by Judge Heather Riley, restrained Immigration Minister David Coleman from removing the family until 12pm on Friday.

That injunction was extended until Wednesday at a hearing in Melbourne on Friday morning. 

Priya and Nadesalingam say they face persecution if they are sent back to Sri Lanka because of past family links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

But Mr Dutton says immigration authorities have spent years assessing their case, and a succession of courts, including the High Court, had not found in their favour.

The family has been in a Melbourne detention centre since March 2018, after being taken from their home in Biloela, in Queensland, during a pre-dawn raid.

They had lived in the town for four years on a temporary bridging visa before it ran out in March 2018.

The High Court denied their final bid to stay in May 2018.

Last week the family found out their efforts to stay in the country had been rejected.

Additional reporting by AAP

Published 30 August 2019 at 8:24am, updated 30 August 2019 at 11:30am
By Rosemary Bolger