Pressure is mounting on Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews to intervene in the case of the “Biloela Family” as a little girl evacuated from Christmas Island is treated by doctors in Perth.
It’s been an anxious night for the family of three-year-old Tharnicaa Murugappan, who is in hospital with a suspected blood infection.
A medical evacuation flight carrying the girl and her mother Priya landed at Perth Airport on Monday night, advocates for the family confirmed.
The evacuation has prompted renewed calls for the family to be resettled in Australia, with more than 365,000 people signing a petition by Tuesday morning.
Priya, Nadesalingam and their two daughters have been held on Christmas Island since August 2019 as the government tries to deport them to Sri Lanka.
Priya and her husband, also known as Nades, came to Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013.
Both Tharnicaa and her six-year-old sister Kopika were born in Australia.
The family made a home in the rural Queensland town of Biloela before their house was raided in 2018 and they were sent to immigration detention.
The federal government has spent more than $6 million keeping the family in detention for the past three years.
Family lawyer Carina Ford said it was long overdue for the family to be resettled in Australia.
Labor’s Home Affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally, who recently travelled to Christmas Island, said the family should not be in detention.
“They should be in their community in Biloela,” Senator Keneally said.
She said Nades should have been allowed to fly with his daughter and wife.
“I’ve met her, she is cheeky and delightful and sweet…I can’t imagine what her father must have felt when he said goodbye to her,” Senator Keneally told the ABC.
Greens Senator Nick McKim said the family’s treatment had been “appalling and disgraceful”.
“They must be resettled in our community urgently, before any more damage is done,” he said.
Tharunicaa – just 3 years old, about to turn 4. Born in Queensland. The cheekiest, sweetest, loveliest little girl.
Now being rushed from detention on Christmas Island to Perth for a medical emergency.🥲
— Kristina Keneally (@KKeneally) June 7, 2021
‘Daughter was sick for 10 days before intervention’
They said Tharnicaa had been unwell for 10 days and might have septicaemia.
Advocates allege that it took days for detention centre staff to take Tharnicaa to the hospital on Christmas Island.
“Tharnicaa had been unwell for 10 days, including vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness, and a temperature reaching over 40 degrees,” Angela Fredericks wrote as part of a petition circulating online.
“Priya has been requesting medical attention for Tharni since last Tuesday, but the detention staff refused to take her to the hospital until Sunday.
“If Priya and Nades were able to access medical services for their children the moment they needed it – as they would in the Australian community – we would not see these shocking delays.”
— Michael Rowland (@mjrowland68) June 7, 2021
The Department of Home Affairs said both the department and the Australian Border Force were committed to the welfare of detainees in immigration detention.
“Healthcare services for detainees on Christmas Island are broadly comparable with those available within the Australian community under the Australian public health system,” a spokesperson for the department said in a statement.
“The ABF facilitates access to nurses, doctors and specialists for all members of the family.”
On December 22 last year, the Australian Medical Association called on the federal government to release “two Sri Lankan children and their parents from immigration detention on Christmas Island until their legal case has been finalised”.
Almost 700 paediatricians and healthcare workers signed a petition expressing concerns about the “negative impact” detention was having on the development of the girls.
“The AMA shares the concerns of these eminent paediatricians and other healthcare workers about the harms being caused to these two young children by being in detention for so long and at such a crucial time in their development,” AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said at the time.
“The first 2000 days of life is critical for children, and early childhood experiences have lasting effects. Continued detention is most likely causing these two little girls avoidable developmental harm.
“The ongoing legal process and associated delays are compounding the harm to these children and prompt resolution of the case one way or the other will be in the interest of all parties, including taxpayers who are funding the extraordinary cost of their detention on Christmas Island,” he said.