Australia

Kristina Keneally accuses Peter Dutton of ‘cancelling’ trip to Christmas Island and Tamil family visit

Kristina Keneally has accused Defence Minister Peter Dutton of personally intervening to cancel an approved trip to Christmas Island, where she was to visit the Tamil family from Biloela held in immigration detention.

In a tweet on Wednesday afternoon, Labor’s home affairs spokesperson said the Australian Border Force had green-lit her wish to meet the family during a visit to the island next week.

Priya and Nades Murugappan and their two Australian-born daughters, Kopika, five, and Tharunicaa, three, have been detained on Christmas Island since August 2019 after an urgent court injunction blocked their deportation to Sri Lanka.

“Looking forward to meeting Priya, Nades and the girls,” Senator Keneally tweeted at 5:14pm AEST.

But shortly afterwards at 5:25pm, Senator Keneally tweeted she had received an email at 5:12pm saying: “the defence minister has determined that the special purpose aircraft can no longer be made available for the committee’s travel”.

“Dutton cancelled the trip,” she tweeted.

The ABF and the office of Mr Dutton have been contacted for comment. They could not immediately be reached.

Senator Keneally had been due to visit Christmas Island as part of parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Capitals, Guardian Australia reported.

The committee was scheduled to travel to Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands to consult with local community groups and hold public hearings between 19 and 21 April.

The Tamil family is currently the only family detained on Christmas Island.

They will remain there for the immediate future after the full bench of the Federal Court in February upheld an earlier decision which found Tharunicaa was not given procedural fairness when her application for a protection visa was assessed.

The Department of Home Affairs has repeatedly said the family does not meet the criteria for a protection visa.



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