During the latter part of last year Australia was captivated by the case of a Tamil family facing imminent deportation to Sri Lanka (read more here). The powerful community-based campaign and the leaked video clips of the attempted deportation exploded into a debate about Australia’s ‘stop the boats’ policy in the media. The Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was exceptionally forced to make a public statement and proclaim his absolute commitment to implement the deportation.
On 30 August 2019, an attempted deportation from Melbourne Airport was halted when lawyers secured an injunction, forcing the charter plane carrying the family to land in Darwin. The family were subsequently transferred to a detention centre on Christmas Island, one of Australia’s most remote territories, awaiting the decision of their next court hearing scheduled for the 21st and 25th of February 2020.
A call for an international delegation to accompany the family
In the case the Australian courts fail to prevent the Tamil family’s deportation, with the support of Tamil Refugee Council of Australia we are calling for a team of persons to go to Sri Lanka to give political protection to them. The international delegation will arrive in Sri Lanka and accompany the family, speak to the international press and document the situation faced by deported Tamils in the island.
Already, Bruce Haigh (former Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka), Dr. Andy Higginbottom (Associate Professor of International Politics, Human Rights and Social Justice at Kingston University in London) and Oliver Schröder (the Head of International Policy at the Federal Office of the Left Party/Die Linke, Berlin) as well as several persons from Australia have agreed to join such a team.
We need a large group of people to commit to the delegation in order to arrange time-slots for the accompaniment to be maintained over a long-time period to ensure the safety of the family until a third country offers to take them.
A test case not only for Australia but for the international community
By their intransigence the Australian government has made the fate of the Biloela Tamil family into an international test case.
The Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is absolutely clear that the family must be deported, as ‘we are not allowing people who arrive by boat to settle in Australia’. He is arguing that the right to asylum should be made null and void because of the method refugees used to arrive in the country.
At the same time the Australian government is asserting ‘freedom of navigation’ for the US and Australian warships in international waters Dutton wants to prevent the refugees who are the victims of the wars that had resulted from this military expansionism, from using these waters to escape.
After arguing against the very right to asylum, Dutton goes on to rubbish claims of Tamils fleeing persecution. He sings the virtues of Sri Lanka’s parliamentary democracy – which just elected, as president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who as defence minister had organised the genocidal war against the Tamils people in 2009.
What Dutton calls democracy is Sinhala supremacist consensus against the Tamil people. When Dutton says that there is now peace in Sri Lanka, he means the peace of the cemetery. Peace where in certain areas in the north of the island there is one Sinhala soldier for every two Tamil people. This military power projection prevents the Tamil people from fighting against colonisation of their land and control of every aspect of life.
To speak of ‘peace’ coming from a representative of the Australian state regarding Sri Lanka is obscene as Australia together with their partners the US and UK, were instrumental is destroying the peace process which began in the early 2000s to trigger the war of extermination which lead to the situation Tamils face today.
Dutton goes on to undervalue the rights of Australian born Kopika (4) and Tharunicaa (2) arguing that the parents had the children primarily as a means to strengthen their case to stay in the country.
He does not stop here. His full spectrum attack on this family is because the case has become the point of intersection for several important issues regarding domestic and international policy.
This case is of interest in Europe also because the Australian approach is cited as an example by right-wing politicians as a model to be adopted to ‘stop the boats’ in the Mediterranean. Most recently the Home Secretary in the Boris Johnson government has shown her admiration for the Australian approach – a testament to which is the legislation against refugee children this month.
We believe that the delegation needs to be international. As hard-right politicians all over the world hope for a victory for the Australian state, it is important for those who oppose these policies to unite to defend this Tamil family. In declaring your support to build the delegation you can play a practical role in this.
Viraj Mendis (Internationaler Menschenrechtsverein Bremen e.V, 0049 421 4323 4277 or mobile 0049 177 406 2220 – also on WhatsApp, Viber and Signal)