Peter Dutton has a particular view on children born in this country of parents who had sought asylum after entering Australia without the proper paperwork. ‘Spud’ called them Anchor Babies.
What ‘Spud’ was trying to imply was that asylum seekers who had babies, frequently whilst in detention, did so for the purpose of using their babies to ‘anchor’ their ability to stay in Australia.
This is nonsense as the The Australian Citizenship Act does not confer Australian citizenship on a person simply by virtue of them being born in Australia. Section 12 of the act states :
Citizenship by birth
(1) A person born in Australia is an Australian citizen if and only if :
(a) a parent of the person is an Australian citizen, or a permanent resident, at the time the person is born; or
(b) the person is ordinarily resident in Australia throughout the period of 10 years beginning on the day the person is born.
So the notion of ‘anchor babies’ as applied to the ‘Biloela family’ is a mischievous fallacy promoted by the Morrison government as Australian law does not allow the parents to use their Australian born babies – Tharunicaa and Kopika – as an automatic right to residency. However, the minister does have discretion to allow them to stay but this is rarely if ever exercised : this government it seems would prefer to fight the matter through the courts and in the meantime hold the family in detention, at a reported cost of six million dollars a year
Now three year old Tharunicaa is in hospital in Perth, she had reportedly been unwell for ten days with high temperatures, vomiting and diarrhoea, as her family called for more medical help. It now appears that she has untreated pneumonia that led to a blood infection.
Tharunicaa, together with her parents and her sister, Kopika, have been in detention on Christmas Island since August 2019.They are the only two children in immigration detention in Australia.
The family had initially settled in the Queensland town of Biloela where they were welcomed and quickly became contributing members of the community until early one morning their home was raided and the family was taken into custody by Australian Border Force personnel in March 2018 – they have been detained since.
The family has been engaged in legal appeals since 2012. Tharunicaa’s father and mother are both Sri Lankan nationals who arrived in Australia by boat seeking asylum in 2012 and 2013 respectively. They arrived without visas and are considered in law to be “unlawful maritime arrivals.” Although Tharunicaa and six-year-old Kopika were born in Australia, they too are “unlawful maritime arrivals”.
Former Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton (now Defence minister but with considerable authority within Cabinet) has repeatedly said the family is not owed protection. They are part of a caseload who had their claims for refugee status determined and denied under a “fast track” process. The Australian Human Rights Commission has found significant issues with the “fast track” process and has called for a compassionate response to this family.
The current drawn out legal action centres around the obligations of the government to consider whether Tharunicaa can apply for a visa in Australia. This can only happen if the new Home Affairs Minister (Karen Andrews) personally intervenes, which it seems she must in the prevailing circumstances.
Only minister Andrews or Immigration Minister Alex Hawke have the power to allow the family to live in the community whether it be on Christmas Island or in Biloela on bridging visas. Andrews recently said she was still taking advice on whether she would allow them to live in the community. Her difficulty will come from Dutton who is taking this issue personally. But both he and Morrison are alert to public calls for this to end. They would both be aware that in 2018, following a similar medivac situation a Queensland coroner found delays in diagnosing and removing Iranian asylum seeker Hamid Kehazaei from Manus Island directly contributed to his death from septicaemia.
Karen Andrews, as the senior minister responsible, is under increasing public pressure to do more for the family and she should now accept an offer by our more compassionate neighbours, New Zealand, who have indicated that they are happy to take the family and resettle them.
However, we know from past experience that what seems sensible, humane and compassionate doesn’t necessarily intrude on the stubborn intransigence of ‘Spud’ Dutton. Morrison could step in but he is wary of the Right wing faction led by Dutton. So this could be a big test of his authority as prime minister.
Whatever happens, the next few days are critical and this little girl should she survive, cannot be returned to detention on Christmas Island or elsewhere.
BREAKING: Tharnicaa (nearly 4 years old) is being medically evacuated to Perth for treatment of a suspected blood infection. She was hospitalised yesterday on CI after suffering a high fever, vomiting/diarrhoea & dizziness for 10 days. Pls keep our little cockatoo in your hearts. pic.twitter.com/ynnT5uNQIh— HometoBilo (@HometoBilo) June 7, 2021
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