The Biloela family has been reunited on the mainland as their young daughter recovers from the hospital, but their long-term future remains unclear.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Tuesday confirmed the family would be removed from Christmas Island, where they have been detained for over two years, and held in community detention in Perth as their legal claims were assessed.
Father Nades and elder daughter Kopika, aged 6, boarded a flight to WA on Tuesday afternoon and were reunited with mother Priya and Tharnicaa later that evening. Tharnicaa, who turned four last weekend, was evacuated to Perth Children’s Hospital last week over a blood infection brought on by pneumonia which went untreated on Christmas Island. It was expected Tharnicaa would need to remain in the hospital for eight weeks as she recovered.
The family will not be allowed to return to the regional Queensland town of Biloela, where they lived before their detention and remained highly popular.
But acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack insisted the family’s new arrangement would allow them access to education and health care.
“They’re being looked after in every which way. Of course, they’ll go through that legal process, but if ever there was a compassionate government that stopped the boats, that was what we needed to do,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.
Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles welcomed the reunification but said the family should be returned to Biloela as their legal situation was resolved.
“It highlights how ridiculous it was that this family was placed on Christmas Island, essentially by themselves, at an enormous cost to the Australian taxpayer,” he said on Wednesday.
Mr. Marles would not be drawn on how Labor would have handled the “very particular set of circumstances” but said a “common sense” rule should apply to the immigration system.
“There is at its heart ministerial discretion, which means that the rule of common sense can apply here, and that’s what ultimately should be applied about his family,” he said.
Mr. Hawke on Tuesday left the door slightly ajar for permanent resettlement, saying there were “several outstanding” legal pathways for the family to pursue.
But he argued Australia did “not owe protection” to the family, and the government’s policy of deporting non-refugee boat arrivals remained unchanged.
The immigration minister considered lifting a ban on children born onshore receiving citizenship if their parents applied for temporary protection.