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Sri Lankan child refugee ‘diagnosed with pneumonia: Australian authorities delay treatment for several days

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The youngest daughter of the Sri Lankan Tamil family from Biloela who have been detained for more than 18 months on Christmas Island has been evacuated to Perth for emergency medical care, advocates have said.

Tharnicaa Murugappan has been evacuated along with her mother, Priya, after being hospitalised with a suspected blood infection.

Australian media now reports that she has been diagnosed with pneumonia.

They were flown out on Monday but her father, Nades, and sister, Kopika, were not allowed to travel.

The Murugappan couple and their two Australian-born children were taken from the regional Queensland town of Biloela and put into detention more than 1,000 days ago.

They were moved to Christmas Island in late 2019 after a court injunction prevented the family being removed from Australia. They have been there ever since.

Priya said Tharnicaa had been unwell for 10 days, with a fever, vomiting, diarrhoea and dizziness, but was not taken to hospital by the Australian Border Force staff until Sunday.

“I am feeling very scared and worried for my little girl,” Priya said in a statement released by advocates. “She has been sick for many days. It took a long time for her to get to the hospital. She is already asking for her papa. It is going to be very hard being away from her dad and sister. It is very hard for our family to be separated when our daughter is sick.”

The family’s lawyer, Carina Ford, told Guardian Australia she had not heard from Border Force, but that was not unusual in these cases.

A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said the department was “aware of the medical evacuation of a minor”.

“Healthcare services for detainees on Christmas Island are broadly comparable with those available within the Australian community under the Australian public health system,” the spokesperson said. “The ABF facilitates access to nurses, doctors and specialists for all members of the family.”

The department said it was “committed to the welfare of detainees”.

Tharnicaa will turn four next week and has spent most of her life in detention. The family won a full federal court appeal in February, with the court upholding a ruling that the government’s handling of Tharnicaa’s visa application denied her procedural fairness.

The court said it was “Kafkaesque” that the government failed to inform the family that a decision had been reached on whether to consider her application.

The federal government has not appealed the ruling, but there are currently two briefs before the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, to consider whether to lift the bar preventing Tharnicaa from making a visa application, and a case to release the family into community detention, Ford said.

“We have just put forward medical reports we’ve obtained that confirm the difficulties that children are now having as a result of long-term detention, which includes sleep disturbance, sensitive to sound, difficulties sleeping, etc. We actually put that forward last night so this does not help that situation, particularly because the family is now separated.”

The new home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, said in May she was considering the “welfare” of the Biloela family and could potentially consider community detention on Christmas Island as an alternative.

Andrews has the power to intervene at any time and allow the family to stay in Australia.

Source: Australian Media including The Guardian

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