Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has insists she is not investigating resettlement options for a Tamil family being detained on Christmas Island.
Three-year-old Tharnicaa is receiving treatment for a blood infection at Perth Children’s Hospital after being evacuated from the island with her mother Priya Murugappan earlier this week.
Ms Andrews on Tuesday raised a ‘range of resettlement options’ when asked about the family, who were taken from their home in Biloela and detained almost three years ago.
Priya, her husband Nades and their Australian-born daughters Tharnicaa and Kopika, 6, have been in detention since 2018, and on Christmas Island since August 2019.
Tharnicaa (right) was medically evacuated to Perth after being hospitalised on Christmas Island with a suspected blood infection.
Tharunicaa (pictured) has been rushed to hospital in Perth with sepsis and has spent the vast majority of her life in detention
But the minister now insists she was making a general comment about refugees evacuated to Australia for medical reasons.
‘I actually haven’t said that I’m investigating resettlement options for that family,’ she told Seven News on Thursday.
‘What I did say is that I was looking at investigating resettlement options in a range of circumstances.
‘Let me be clear about what I said, it was a very general comment in relation to cohorts we have here in Australia that I’m on the record as saying that we will be working with.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday was quick to point out Ms Andrews was speaking generally after she raised resettlement in other countries.
There are growing calls for the Biloela family detained on Christmas Island to be resettled in Australia in light of Tharnicaa’s illness.
A series of court orders has prevented them from being deported to Sri Lanka over the past several years.
Figures released last year showed the government has spent more than $6million detaining the family. Pictured: Priya and Nades
Three-year-old daughter Tharnicaa from the Biloela family has contracted suspected sepsis
But the government has not wavered after the family’s protection status was denied despite fears they may become targets for violence.
Ms Andrews said allowing them to stay would undermine the government’s pledge to never permanently resettle illegal boat arrivals.
‘It’s not a case of being mean, we are very strong as a government, and our policy, in relation to our border protection. These are long-standing policies,’ Ms Andrews said.
‘Quite frankly, I’m not going to have people die trying to come to Australia by sea on my watch.’
She said Australia Border Force, which manages the Christmas Island detention facility, had given assurances the family was ‘well accommodated’.
Supporters claimed staff refused to take Tharnicaa to hospital until Sunday despite her vomiting and having a high temperature since May 25.
Her mother issued emotional plea from her daughter’s hospital bedside as her little girl fights a blood infection.
Priya Murugappan (in hospital with daughter Tharnicaa) released a gut-wrenching video
‘I want to thank everybody for their love and good wishes,’ Priya said in a video message as she cradled her daughter.
‘I hope that Tharnicaa can get the help she needs now. Please, help us to get her out of detention and home to Biloela.’
Priya says her daughter was sick for almost two weeks and that medical contractors at the immigration detention centre repeatedly refused to take her to hospital.
Tharnicaa’s potentially-deadly blood infection has been linked by supporters to untreated pneumonia.
Candelight vigils were held outside Perth Children’s Hospital on Wednesday evening and will be repeated at the Sydney Town Hall on Thursday.
Family supporter Angela Fredericks said medical arrangements for detainees on Christmas Island, far off the coast of WA, were inadequate and dangerous.
‘From my understanding, this would usually show up as a chest infection, which would then get treated,’ she said.
Kopika (left) gets taken to school by guards while Priya stays inside to look after three-year-old Tharunicaa (right) – who has now gone to Perth for treatment for sepsis
‘And that would stop it going to pneumonia. If it went to pneumonia, that would then be treated to stop it going into the blood supply.
‘We’ve had two delays in treatment here, which has led to this crisis point.’
The Department of Home Affairs and Australian Border Force said Tharnicaa had been receiving medical treatment and daily monitoring on Christmas Island consistent with medical advice.
‘As soon as the ABF was advised by the treating medical practitioners that the minor required medical treatment in Western Australia, the minor was transferred to a hospital in Western Australia,’ an official said.
‘The Australian Border Force strongly denies any allegations of inaction or mistreatment of individuals in its care.’
Healthcare for detainees was ‘broadly comparable’ with that on the mainland, the official said.