Sunday, 12 June 2022

I am going to put my head on the block

and say that I believe the Nadesalingam family should be returned to Sri Lanka.

I know that will shock a lot of people. They will believe that I am anti-refugee. They are wrong. I am taking this stance because I am pro-refugee. 

For those of you overseas who don't know the story. The Nadesalingam or Murugappan family have been the subject (and one might say victims) of a long running immigration case in this country. The parents came here separately by boat and then attempted to claim refugee status. They met here and married here. Their claims for refugee status were found not to be valid on more than one occasion and attempts were made to return them to Sri Lanka. While this was going on they moved to a small country town and had two children. 

They were then the subject of an early morning raid and moved to a detention facility. The town, or at least some outspoken members of it, decided to fight the issue of their deportation. They succeeded by using the birth of the children and their departure was halted at the last possible moment.

These people are being used as pawns in a much larger game, a game worth millions of dollars to the "refugee industry" of the legal profession and some others. There are other "spokespeople" who get a high from "fighting for refugees". It is all a very big business indeed. And it is not helping refugees.

I know it may look as if it is but millions have been spent on this case alone. Millions will be spent on other cases as a result of this case. If the Nadesalingam family is permitted to stay then it will set some very dangerous precedents. It may well do far more harm than good to the many refugees who need our help.

I have no doubt that the two little girls are very much loved and I do feel very, very sorry for them. Their lives have not been normal. They have been in and out of detention and even now their future is not completely certain. No child should have to experience what they have experienced. 

But this is not, as some would have us believe, the fault of the previous government. It is, in the first place, due to the actions of the parents. They were found not to be refugees. I am told there were very good reasons for that decision. They were actually offered the opportunity to return to Sri Lanka and make an application to migrate legally. They were told that this would be "favourably considered". Instead they - or their advisors - chose to fight the decision in other ways. 

There are thousands upon thousands of people in this country who support this family. They see them as being refugees the previous government denied the right to stay. The reality is different. These are people who did not come here in accordance with the law. They were found not to have valid claims. They refused to leave.  

Now it seems likely the minister responsible in the new government will make the politically popular decision to use his powers to allow them to stay in defiance of the courts. That is wrong. 

I think of the millions of refugees in this world who want to go home and cannot go home - because, for the most part, refugees do want to go home. The homesickness some of them experience takes a massive toll on their mental well being even when they appear to be successful in so many other ways. One reason for the success of so many is the desire to be able to go "back home" one day and do something for their birth community.  These people are not "migrants". There is a difference between migrating and fleeing persecution. Refugees have stories to tell and we should be listening.

But this family is being used and abused by people who claim to have their best interests at heart. Genuine interest in their welfare would have been to advise them to return to Sri Lanka and put in that application to migrate. That way they would not have put at risk so many others.

Refugees are people, not an industry for advocates or the legal profession.  

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