Public sympathy won’t pay costs of false refugee status

Public sympathy won’t pay costs of false refugee status. By Jennifer Oriel.

On the day Labor won the election, illegal immigrants set sail for Australia. Under the Coalition government, there had been no boat arrivals for two years. In the three weeks since Labor came to power, three vessels from Sri Lanka have been intercepted.

By ministerial intervention, Sri Lankan couple Nades and Priya Murugappan were granted bridging visas last month. After fighting deportation for years, the Murugappans have a kind of celebrity status in the Australian media.

Their protracted fight to gain citizenship is depicted as a battle between the persecuted poor and a conservative government that insisted on strong border security. Labor pledged to release them from detention if it came to power and made good on the promise when Jim Chalmers, acting as interim home affairs minister, intervened to grant them a bridging visa.

The media has painted the Murugappan story in a sympathetic light, portraying them as victims. New Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese joined the chorus of lament, describing the Murugappans being taken in the middle of the night by authorities and saying Australia should do better than that. …

But they aren’t refugees:

The widespread sympathy is at odds with reality, given multiple court proceedings found the Tamil family were not refugees. After the High Court of Australia rejected an application to hear an appeal from them last year, then immigration minister Alex Hawke said it “followed a series of previous decisions by the Department of Home Affairs, Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Federal Circuit Court, Federal Court, Full Federal Court and High Court in relation to the family”.

One of the most notable decisions was made by the Federal Circuit Court, which rejected the Tamil family’s appeal against deportation. Justice Caroline Kirton found the initial Immigration Assessment Authority denying them refugee status was valid. She noted the Sri Lankan civil war had ended in 2009 and Nades, who claimed a fear of persecution, had returned to Sri Lanka three times during the civil war without harm. Former home affairs minister Peter Dutton said the Murugappan case was “completely without merit in terms of their claim to be refugees”. …

This exception to the rule will encourage people-smuggling, again:

The victory for the Tamil couple in gaining prime ministerial support for their permanent residency bid could be a green light to people-smugglers.

Speaking to The Weekend Australian, Sri Lankan navy spokesman Indika de Silva said the navy had been apprehending at least one boat a week for the past month. He noted that people-smugglers are fooling the population into believing they will have a better life in Australia, even though Labor has not announced plans to welcome illegal boat arrivals. The Labor government has committed to maintaining the Coalition’s key border security policy, Operation Sovereign Borders. But people-smugglers are liars and cheats. They exploit legal loopholes, look for signs of weakness in government policy and play the victim when caught. …

Albanese knows the history of Labor government includes disastrous border security failures. When last in office, Labor dismantled Howard-era policy for what it claimed was a more humane approach to people seeking asylum. The compassionate approach resulted in more than 50,000 people arriving by boat and 1200 dying at sea. More than 8000 children were left in detention. The Coalition cleaned up the mess and estimated the cost at more than $17bn.

The Murugappan case might be the exception to the rule, but people-smugglers will sell it as the rule. However well liked by the Biloela community, their case will encourage other foreign nationals to think they have a chance of permanent residency in Australia even with asylum claims not recognised by the courts. Labor will be faced with the consequences and taxpayers will be left with the bill.

Many people on the left “feel very strongly” about the issue. So the Albanese Government had to let them in. Now what?