Priya and Nades: The Facts
1. Priya and Nades came to Australia legally
Priya and Nades came to Australia seeking safety (“asylum”).
Under Australian and international law, it is legal to come to Australia seeking protection from threats to life or freedom. It is legal to seek protection whether you come by air or by sea.
For a long time, Australian politicians have incited fear towards people who come seeking safety by sea by falsely labelling them as “illegal”.
In 2013, when Prime Minister Morrison was Immigration Minister, he ordered officials to call people seeking safety “Illegal Maritime Arrivals” if they arrived by sea, even though they had broken no laws.
Now Mr Dutton is applying this false description not just to Priya and Nades, but to their two Australian-born children, who have never been outside Australia.
2. Priya or Nades have not travelled to Sri Lanka since arriving in Australia
After arriving in Australian in 2012 and 2013 respectively, Priya and Nades were issued bridging visas. The conditions of their visas prevented them from leaving Australia.
As a young man, Nades tried to get away from the dangers he faced in Sri Lanka by applying for temporary work visas to Gulf State countries.
These countries do not give protection to people seeking safety and when temporary visas expire, guest workers have little option but to return.
Between 2004 and 2011, Nades applied for temporary work visas to travel to Qatar and Kuwait. He returned to Sri Lanka to fulfil family responsibilities during periods of relative calm. He believed that the danger had died down and tried to stay safe by avoiding the Sri Lankan authorities.
In Sri Lanka, Nades was harrassed by the Central Intelligence Division, which is widely known to have tortured many Tamil people. He and his family realised that it was too dangerous for Nades to ever live in Sri Lanka. He came to Australia seeking safety in 2012 and has not returned since.
3. Priya and Nades were not told they would “never settle permanently in Australia”
Like many other people who came to Australia by sea in search of safety, Priya was allowed to apply for a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV). Nades was allowed to apply for a permanent protection visa. Both of these visas offer a pathway to live permanently in Australia.
A permanent protection visa allows people to settle permanently straight away. Safe Haven Enterprise Visas allow people to apply to settle permanently if they stay in full-time employment or study full-time in a regional area for at least three and a half years.
We cannot find any evidence that Peter Dutton or Scott Morrison said that people who arrive by sea would “never settle permanently in Australia” before 2016, three to four years after Priya and Nades arrived in Australia.
4. Priya and Nades daughters protection claims were not resolved before had children
Before meeting in Australia, Priya and Nades had lost many years of their lives to war and conflict. They feared they would never have a family of their own.
After moving to Biloela, they believed they had found a good, safe place to start a family. They believed Australia would protect them and that they would be able to stay in Biloela where they felt safe.
The government did not let Priya apply for protection until November 2016. This was more than a year after her first daughter Kopika was born.
Any official who told Priya she would not be recognised as a refugee before they she was permitted to apply for protection would be breaking international law.
5. The Government stopped Priya from seeking protection for several years after she arrived in Australia
After arriving in Australia in 2013, Priya was detained for 10 months. She was released to the community after passing health, identity and security checks.
Because of changes to Australia’s migration laws made during Scott Morrison’s time as Immigration Minister, Priya was stopped from applying for protection until 2016.
It is not true that Priya was told she was “not a refugee” shortly after arriving in Australia. Any official who told her she would was not a refugee before they she was permitted to apply for protection would be breaking international law.
6. The courts have no power to decide if Priya, Nades, Kopika or Tharunicaa are refugees
It is untrue that Priya and Nades have had the opportunity to explain their circumstances to multiple decision makers and judges.
Priya was only allowed to explain her safety fears to officials once.
At the time she was interviewed, she was eight months pregnant. She had been released from hospital the day before and was suffering from a migraine.
The interview took place by phone and a transcript of the call shows her migration agent dropped out of the call at important points. This was the only opportunity Priya had to tell her story to a decision maker.
The courts do not have the power to decide if Priya, Nades, Kopika or Tharunicaa are refugees. They can only check whether officials have followed the process the government has decided they should, even if that process is flawed.
Changes made to Australia’s migration laws in 2015 took away the right of people who arrived by sea to have the decisions of officials fairly and properly checked.
7. Sri Lanka is very dangerous for Tamil people like Priya, Nades, Kopika and Tharunicaa
The officials that rejected Priya and Nades’ requests for protection relied heavily on country information reports provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
DFAT country information for Sri Lanka differs significantly from reports by international organisations and human rights groups. For example, while DFAT reports state that allegations of torture cannot be verified in Sri Lanka, the UN Special Rapporteur on Terrorism has stated that the use of torture remains a serious concern in Sri Lanka and that Tamil people are especially vulnerable.
Priya and Nades’ fears for the safety of their daughters have intensified since November 2018, when Nades’ mother was questioned by an officer of the feared Criminal Investigation Division (CID), who knew the names of his wife, Priya and Australian-born daughters, Kopika and Tharunicaa.
The CID is widely acknowledged to have tortured and “disappeared” many Tamil people. Tamil people forced to return to Sri Lanka are routinely arrested by the CID on arrival at the airport.
8. Priya and Nades don't need to be recognised as refugees to stay in Australia
Under the Migration Act, Minister Dutton and Minister Coleman have the power to intervene in any immigration case for any reason they choose.
This was demonstrated by Minister Dutton’s widely reported interventions in the immigration matters of several European au pairs and Mr Coleman’s intervention this year in the cases of a number of individuals deemed a burden on the Australian health system.
The Ministers have the power to return Priya, Nades and their children home to Biloela at any time for any reason. They do not need to be recognised as refugees for this to occur.