NOT STEPPING IN: Former Immigration Minister Peter Dutton (right) at Parliament House in Canberra, August 23.
NOT STEPPING IN: Former Immigration Minister Peter Dutton (right) at Parliament House in Canberra, August 23. LUKAS COCH

Au pair scandal sparks calls for Tamil family's release

REVELATIONS that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton intervened to grant tourist visas to at least four foreign au pairs during his time as Immigration Minister have prompted supporters of a Biloela family to call for the family's immediate release from immigration detention in Melbourne.

Tamil couple Priya and Nades, and their Queensland-born daughters Kopika and Tharunicaa, are currently appealing a Federal Court decision in hopes they can avoid deportation to Sri Lanka and return to the home in Biloela from which they were removed during a dawn raid by Border Force officers in March.

It was revealed this week that Mr Dutton used his ministerial discretion in 2015 to prevent the deportation of a 27-year-old French woman who came to Australia to work for AFL chief executive Gil McLachlan, adding to questions raised earlier this year over similar actions taken by Mr Dutton in two previous cases.

The Guardian reported on Thursday that Mr Dutton had used his powers to intervene in a fourth case, this time an Italian woman coming to Australia to work for the family of a former colleague of his from his time as an officer with the Queensland Police Service.

Mr Dutton has denied granting any special favours, calling his decision-making style in those cases and others "a common-sense approach".

Supporters of Priya and Nades used the renewed scrutiny of Mr Dutton's actions to call for similar intervention from the Federal Government to halt the family's deportation.

 

Nades and Priya settled in Biloela in 2012 and 2013 and have two daughters together Kopika, 3, and Tharunicaa, 1.
Nades and Priya settled in Biloela in 2012 and 2013 and have two daughters together Kopika, 3, and Tharunicaa, 1. Contributed

Family friend and former Biloela local Simone Cameron said supporters had travelled 1800km to be with the family in Melbourne, delivered a petition with almost 120,000 signatures opposing their deportation, and even appeared on the ABC program Q&A where they convinced Liberal Senator Jim Molan to put their concerns to Mr Dutton.

"Not only has Mr Dutton ignored our concerns, we've had to take emergency legal action to stop him forcing this much-loved family from Australia to danger not once, but twice," Ms Cameron said.

She also expressed sympathy for Alexandra Deuwel, the 27-year-old au pair at the centre of Mr Dutton's controversy.

"I have seen first-hand the terrible stress and fear that six months of immigration detention has inflicted on Priya, Nades and their girls," she said.

 

FUTURE UNCERTAIN: Kopika, 3, and Tharunicaa, 1, have been in a Melbourne detention centre since March with their parents Priya and Nades.
Kopika, 3, and Tharunicaa, 1, have been in immigration detention since March. Contributed

"Although Alexandra was only detained for a short time, it must have been a frightening experience.

"Biloela is a close-knit community with a proud history of welcoming migrants... I would like to think someone like Alexandra would be welcomed as warmly as Priya and Nades.

"I can only imagine how she would feel to learn that the same politician who freed her from detention has kept an Australian-born pre-schooler and baby locked up for over six months."