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Bishop of Grafton, the Rt Rev Dr Murray Harvey (pictured) has “joined with the other bishops, as well as many health professionals who have spoken out”, regarding the treatment of the Murugappan family. Previously, he has written “to the Prime Minister as part of the ‘Game Over’ campaign, urging the Australian Government to accept the NZ Government’s offer to resettle 150 people a year, who are currently in detention in Australia’s offshore detention centres”. The bishops are encouraging people to “write a polite email to your elected representative asking them to advocate for Priya, Nades and the girls to be brought home to Biloela”. Image: Contributed

Bishop backs church’s Biloela letter

Geoff Helisma

Bishop of Grafton, the Rt Rev Dr Murray Harvey, has joined dozens of Anglican bishops around Australia, imploring the Australian Government to allow the Tamil asylum seeker family from Biloela to return to their Queensland home.

Bishop Harvey added his name to an open letter to the Prime Minister, relevant ministers and the Leader of the Opposition, calling “for a compassionate, fair, safe, common sense and permanent solution”.

“We stand in solidarity with this young family seeking peace, safety and stability; and with the Biloela community who are waiting to welcome them back home,” the letter concludes.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a June 15 media release that he had “exercised [his] power … to allow the Sri Lankan family [Nades and Priya Murugappan and their daughters, Kopika and Tharnicaa] … to reside in the Perth community”.

Mr Hawke said his decision facilitates Tharnicaa’s “ongoing treatment” – she was transferred from Christmas Island to a Perth hospital to treat a blood infection caused by pneumonia.

Mr Hawke said the family is pursuing “ongoing litigation before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Federal Court and High Court” and that, “importantly, today’s decision does not create a pathway to a visa”.

“As required by court orders, I will consider at a future date whether to lift the statutory bar presently preventing members of the family from reapplying for temporary protection, for which they have previously been rejected,” he said.

“Anyone who arrives in Australia illegally by boat will not be resettled permanently.

“Anyone who is found not to be owed protection will be expected to leave Australia.”

Bishop Harvey said, “It is hard to understand why the government has taken such a hard line on this issue when rural communities such as Biloela need families like this one.

“The Biloela community is keen to get them back and offer them a loving home.

“As a psychologist, I’m very aware of the effect of detention on the mental health.

“A report by the Australian Psychological Society highlights the danger to the mental health of asylum seekers being held in detention.

“For those placed in detention, particularly children, the problem is much worse.

“Reports indicate that offshore detention can have serious consequences, especially when people are held there in the long term.

“Australia is a caring nation and we should be able to offer protection to survivors of war and persecution.”

The open letter points out that in March 2018 the family was “forced from their Biloela home by armed government officers in a dawn raid” and that allowing the family to live in community detention is “only the first step”.

“This young family has become an integral part of the tight-knit Biloela community, where they volunteered, worked, participated in church groups and built close friendships for nearly four years,” they write.