Mass protests: Dutton ‘taking pleasure in others’ suffering’
PROTESTERS have gathered in multiple cities around Queensland and Australia to demand the government allow a Sri Lankan family to return to their Sunshine State home after they were sent offshore to Christmas Island amid distressing scenes.
More than a dozens protests have been planned around Australia on Sunday calling on the government to let Priya, her husband Nadesalingam and their Australian-born children Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2, stay.
Hundreds gathers in Brisbane's King George Square in support of the family who were sent to the island off the northwest coast of Australia in secret in the small hours of Saturday morning.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has been accused of taking pleasure in others' suffering in attempting to deport them.
They are being held on Christmas Island after being granted an 11th-hour injunction against their deportation.
"This is senseless cruelty, this is cruelty for the sake of being cruel," federal Greens leader Richard Di Natale told reporters at a rally in Melbourne on Sunday.
"This is a minister in Peter Dutton taking pleasure in the suffering of others, that's what going on here. It's barbaric, it's cruel and it needs to end."
Mr Dutton has refused to budge in the facing of mounting community pressure. "I would like the family to accept that they are not refugees, they're not owed protection by our country," he said on Friday.
It came as Federal Court Judge Mordy Bomberg extended an interim injunction against the deportation until Wednesday, after lawyers for the family argued Tharunicaa had not been assessed for a protection visa.
The government had attempted to fly the family out of the country on Thursday night before being forced to land in Darwin because of the last-minute injunction.
But Priya, Nadesalingam, Kopika and Tharunicaa were flown to Christmas Island on Friday night, and are believed to be the only people in the detention centre.
"I spoke to Priya yesterday, she's very afraid," New Zealand journalist and family friend Rebekah Holt told Sunday's rally in Melbourne. It was one of 15 planned across the country, including in the Queensland community of Biloela, where the Tamil family had settled.
"All I could hear in her voice ... was the stress, the exhaustion and the fear.
"I asked her if she had a message and she said 'we're all alone here'," Ms Holt said.
Hundreds of people on the steps of the State Library of Victoria chanted "let them stay," before holding a five-minute silent vigil and then singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.
Earlier, federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese pleaded for the government to show discretion in the case.
"Minister Dutton has got himself in a circumstance whereby, in order to show that he's harsh and tough, he's showing that he has no humanity. Australia is a better country than that," he said.
The Tamil family's plight has also sparked support from more unlikely corners, with radio shock jock Alan Jones among those speaking out in their favour. Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce is also reportedly backing the family's bid to remain in Australia.
"The people of Biloela seem to be pretty enthused about keeping this family there. I think we should also be listening to them," he told media.