Australia is prepared to waive the practice of charging the estimated $1 million deportation cost for the Sri Lankan family at the centre of national protests if they agree to return home and reapply for legal work visas.
The New Daily understands the automatic and punitive costs that Australia charges to failed asylum seekers attempting to return on migrant visas will be waived for the family as a show of good faith.
The olive branch offers no guarantees for the family, but would allow the couple and their two Australian-born children a chance to return to the town of Biloela on migrant work visas.
It would also allow the Morrison government a pathway to responding to community concerns without abandoning its hardline policy.
Waiting periods to reapply for work visas to Australia could also be waived.
Sri Lankan couple Priya and Nadesalingam and their Australian-born daughters Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2, are on Christmas Island, as they wait to learn the outcome of their legal battle.
Peter Dutton says Anthony Albanese's visit to Biloela, where a Tamil family formerly lived before their deportation battle, was part of his bid to become 'Mr Popular' #auspol #HomeToBilo pic.twitter.com/KkI7oyHE0M
— The New Daily (@TheNewDailyAu) September 5, 2019
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton urged the family to return home and apply for new visas.
“Anybody offshore can make an application for a visa if they meet the conditions of the visa. So firstly it depends on what visa somebody is applying for,” he said.
“The usual checks would be in place, but this family would be eligible to make application offshore, as thousands of people do each year.”
But Abul Rizvi, a former deputy secretary of the Immigration and Citizenship department has warned the claim the family could return home and apply for visas was misleading because the couple will be hit with the bill for deportation.
He estimated the costs, after the family was deported from Melbourne, redirected to Darwin and then flown to Christmas Island to escape protesters, could run to seven figures.
“If they’re deported from Australia they’re automatically subject to a bar under section 48 of the Act from the country,” Mr Rizvi said.
“The Minister can lift the bar, assuming the minister was inclined to do but even if the minister did, they’d still be left with a large debt to the Commonwealth, adding up all of the costs of their detention to date.
“Just think about the cost of a charter flight to Christmas Island. That would have cost $60,000-70,000 alone,” Mr Rizvi said.
The debts are used to stop families from even trying to re-enter the country.
But senior government sources said those costs could be waived.
The family had been living in the central Queensland town of Biloela until Priya’s bridging visa expired last March.
The father of the girls, Nadesalingam, was working at the local meat works, which could sponsor him to return on a 457 visa from Sri Lanka.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has urged the minister to simply use his powers under the act to allow them to stay.
But the Morrison government is adamant that would set a precedent for an estimated 6000 other Sri Lankan families in similar circumstances who remain in Australian on bridging visas despite having their refugee claims rejected.