Opinion: The Tamil Family of Biloela

Nilesh Nandan Immigration Lawyer

 

It’s not often I defend Minister Dutton, but I feel I must defend him if he is right.

The short point surrounding the Tamil family of Biloela is that the main visa applicants have been assessed as not entitled to a protection (refugee) visa.

This conclusion was reached after consideration by a Delegate within the Department of Immigration, followed by another consideration by a member of the Immigration Assessing Authority. What followed were further considered decisions by the Federal Circuit Court, the Federal Court and the High Court of Australia.

A red herring is a last minute technical challenge (to be heard later today in court in Melbourne) as to whether proper consideration was given to the youngest child. This is the reason why a plane leaving Melbourne and bound for Sri Lanka was diverted mid-air and forced to land in Darwin.

Why Dutton is right (on this occasion) is that he has acted in accordance with the rules. It is for another day to consider whether the rules should be changed. His department has been true to the eligibility criteria against which all visa applicants are to be assessed.

The Tamil family have had the opportunity to challenge Dutton and his department in several Courts. They did this without success. Australia’s smartest legal minds have adjudicated on the conclusion.

Dutton can’t succumb to a media snow storm. Doing so would unleash chaos. He must make a decision by following the rules. Dutton must play by the rules, like everyone else in Australia.

The size of the problem is remarkable. There are more than 5757 asylum-seekers already on bridging visas, pursuing legal challenges against deportation. Another 7900 are yet to have their protection claims assessed.

If Dutton were to make an exception to the rules in this case, what’s likely to happen next is that every unsuccessful refugee applicant will seek to have his or her case determined in the public arena.

Trial by media whether social media, television, radio or print, is something that we, as Australians, have never subscribed to. Dutton is right because we shouldn’t subscribe to it now, unless we first change these rules.

A lot of Australians are asking why this 2013-matter, hasn’t been resolved by now. A lot of Australians are also asking how it’s possible to have one matter consume the resources of so many organs of the Australian bureaucracy and of the Australian judiciary. These are good questions. All of these applications cost a lot of money.

I can’t help thinking that if the Tamil family had handled this in a different way, Dutton may well have more room to move.

There is a lot of community support for the family. While I have great sympathy for them and those who support them, Australian immigration law is not on their side in this matter.

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