Australia’s standing as a “generous country” is intact as the court process deciding the fate of a family of Tamil asylum-seekers held in immigration detention runs its course, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says.
Speaking in Rockhampton, less than 200 kilometres from the family’s former home in the Queensland town of Biloela, Mr Morrison told ABC radio Australia was one of the most welcoming countries in the world for refugees.
“We’ve been taking people out of camps at a per capita rate second only to Canada in the world, and so Australia is a generous country, but we do it through a proper process,” he said on Tuesday.
“We don’t do it through illegal entry into Australia.
“There’s a legal process in Australia, there are policies in Australia, and we don’t customise those for any one individual.”
Supporters of the family – who are held on Christmas Island – marked three years of their immigration detention with vigils calling on Mr Morrison to “make the captain’s call” and let them return to Queensland.
“Mr Morrison has always had the power to instruct his ministers to let Priya and her family return to Biloela, but he has let little Kopika and Tharunicaa live the majority of their lives in detention,” long-time campaigner Angela Fredericks said on the eve of the March 5 anniversary.
The possibility of government intervention to short-circuit a protracted court battle based on Tharunicaa’s right to apply for a protection visa is a matter for Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, Mr Morrison said.
“Those are matters of discretion, but they’re also always done as a minister … mindful of the broader policy implications and of any core processes that are at work,” he said.