Minister defends family’s $ 6.7 million detention at Leigh Sales grill
Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has defended the extraordinary amount of taxpayer money spent to keep a Sri Lankan family in detention, despite mounting pressure to let them return to their Queensland community.
The family of Tamil asylum seekers Murugappan, held on Christmas Island for two years, were allowed to reunite on Tuesday after the youngest girl was medically evacuated with her mother to Perth last week.
As the government faces growing calls to end the detention of girls Tharnicaa, 4, and Kopika, 6 – who were born in Australia – and their parents, the Immigration Minister yesterday decided to allow them to be reunited in Western Australia where Tharnicaa is being treated for pneumonia and sepsis.
Appearing on ABC’s 7:30 a.m. show Tuesday night, Mr. Hawke sought to justify the harsh and costly treatment of the family.
“According to Senate estimates, the cost of detaining the family on Christmas Island from August 2019 to January this year was $ 6.7 million, including $ 2.3 million for detention, food, cleaning and school fees, $ 1.2 million for travel expenses and $ 100,000 for medical expenses plus others, ”said host Leigh Sales.
“Who is the entrepreneur raising this money for a family of four for food training and school? “
For less than 18 months, “That’s a lot of money isn’t it? $ 6.7 million”.
In response, Mr Hawke acknowledged that the cost of border protection was high, but said it was “money well spent”.
“The cost of not having a border regime is much higher in human lives,” he said.
When asked why it was so expensive for a family of four, the minister said operating facilities in remote parts of Australia is expensive.
“We’re not kidding about that… It’s money well spent on border protection.”
“How is that not cruel? “
Mt Hawke, who with the stroke of a pen could exercise his ministerial power to allow the family to return to their community in the rural town of Biloela, Queensland, where locals have campaigned to get them back, has been pressed to find out if the government’s position was cruel.
Australia’s strict border regime enjoys much bipartisan support, but its controversial offshore detention program has drawn criticism from the United Nations over human rights violations.
Sales asked the Minister of Immigration if it was cruel to specifically persecute those who arrived in the country by boat.
“The policy sends potentially legitimate refugees home to countries where they could be persecuted, tortured or even killed because of the method of their travel. How is that not cruel? she asked.
Mr Hawke refuted this qualification, saying Australia was fulfilling its international obligations towards asylum seekers.
“Well, no, that’s not actually true. So if it turns out that someone is engaging Australia’s protection obligations, we have to take that into account, ”he argued.
No visa for the Biloela family to come
The family’s case for asylum in Australia and not to be deported continues to go through the court system. “At every step,” they found they were not entitled to protection, said Mr. Hawke.
In Tuesday’s statement announcing the family would be allowed to reunite in detention in Perth, the Immigration Minister said there was no movement towards a visa.
“Today’s decision does not create a path to a visa,” Hawke said Tuesday.
“I will consider at a later date whether to lift the current legal ban preventing family members from re-applying for temporary protection, for which they were previously rejected.”
Do you have a story tip? E-mail: email@example.com
You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from App Store or google play.