Tamil family’s treatment ‘internationally embarrassing’, WA Premier says

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan says the Morrison government should let a Tamil asylum-seeker family detained on Christmas Island settle permanently in Australia.

During a press conference on Thursday morning, Mr McGowan said the issue had become “internationally embarrassing” and it was time for the federal government to sort it out.

Sister Kopika comforts Tharunicaa with in hospital on Christmas Island this week before she was evacuated to a Perth hospital.

“If that means they need to use one of their exemption powers under the act, just do it, and resolve the issue,” he said.

“We actually need workers in Australia at the moment and to get this very unfortunate and somewhat internationally embarrassing issue behind us.”

Mr McGowan said he didn’t raise the issue with Scott Morrison when they met on Wednesday during the Prime Minister’s stop in Perth, but the family’s fate was a matter for the Commonwealth.

Pressure on Mr Morrison has been mounting inside the Liberal party with MPs privately seeking a solution that lets the family return to the mainland after almost two years in detention, which has cost taxpayers almost $7 million.

But Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has ruled out investigating resettlement options saying: “I am not going to have people dying trying to come to Australia by sea on my watch”.

Parents Priya and Nadesalingam and their Australian-born daughters, Kopika and Tharnicaa have been detained on Christmas Island since August 2019 after being removed from the Queensland town of Biloela following unsuccessful asylum claims for the three oldest family members.

A series of court orders has stopped the federal government from deporting them but the family’s future hinges on whether their youngest daughter has a right to apply for a protection visa.

On Monday, three-year-old Tharnicaa was flown to Perth from Christmas Island with her mother amid concerns she could have a serious infection after being ill for two weeks.

The group fighting to keep the family from being deported said staff at the detention centre had refused to take Tharnicaa to the hospital until Sunday, even though she was vomiting and recording a temperature of more than 40 degrees.

Tharnicaa remains in stable condition at Perth Children’s Hospital, where a crowd of supporters gathered on Wednesday night to call on the government to stop the family’s deportation.

Similar vigils are expected to take place in other parts of the country this week.

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