Dozens of Anglican Bishops nationally have sent an open letter to the Prime Minister and the Immigration Minister, calling for the immediate return of a young Sri Lankan Tamil family to the rural Queensland town of Biloela, after the youngest family member captured the heart of the nation this week.
The open letter was initiated by Bishop for the Northern Region The Right Rev’d Jeremy Greaves, who said that the Government’s “cruel” treatment should be replaced by “compassion and care”.
“At the heart of our faith is the imperative to consider how we treat the very least among us and I feel strongly about the need for Christian leaders to stand up and speak out when we see a lack of compassion and care,” Bishop Greaves said.
“The current policies around refugees and people seeking asylum seem devoid of compassion and care and should be challenged on that ground alone.
“The story of this family personalises the plight of many, many people trapped by a system designed to punish those seeking asylum and to deter others by creating cruel conditions with which I am deeply uncomfortable.”
Approximately 30 Bishops have called for a permanent solution, after the family was detained in 2018 during a dawn raid on their Biloela home, before being released from immigration detention on Christmas Island into ‘community detention’ in Perth earlier this week.
“As Christian leaders, we write to each of you welcoming your government’s decision to release Nades and Priya and their daughters, Kopika and Tharnicaa, from immigration detention – but only as the first step to bringing the family back home to Biloela where they clearly belong,” the Bishops wrote.
“This young family has become an integral part of the tight-knit Biloela community, where they volunteered, worked, participated in church groups and built close friendships for nearly four years.”
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke announced on Tuesday that the family would be released into ‘community detention’ in Perth after a national outcry following the youngest family member’s medical evacuation to Perth Children’s Hospital due to sepsis, reportedly caused by untreated pneumonia.
“Forcibly returning Nades and Priya to Sri Lanka was, and remains, an unsafe option, as abduction, torture, unlawful detention and sexual violence of Tamils at the hands of Sri Lankan security forces continue to be reported,” the Bishops wrote.
“Every parent has the right to build a life with their children in safety and with a measure of certainty about their future. After spending well over three years in immigration detention, Nades and Priya, along with their young girls, need stability to rebuild their lives. Granting the family visas and allowing their return to Biloela will enable them to do so.
“Robust studies show that detaining children severely impacts their mental, emotional and physical health long-term. Returning these young girls to their home town of Biloela, where they are cherished by people they know, will enable the healing process to commence following the trauma caused by several years of immigration detention.
“Under the Migration Act, The Minister for Immigration the Hon Alex Hawke MP has the ability to grant the family members the visas they need for a permanent solution so they can rebuild their lives.
“Our great country is behind this family. More than half a million people signed a petition calling for the family’s release and immediate return to Biloela. They are joined by medical professionals, children’s advocates, elected representatives (including from your own parties), educators, academics, broadcasters, business owners, peak bodies and community leaders.
“As Christian leaders, we echo the call for a compassionate, fair, safe, common sense and permanent solution. We stand in solidarity with this young family seeking peace, safety and stability, and with the Biloela community who are waiting to welcome them back home.”Jump to next article