A BRISBANE Dominican priest has added his voice to calls for fair process for asylum seekers and their families, after a Tamil man was deported from Australia and then arrested in Sri Lanka.
“This is calculated cruelty. It contravenes the basic right of the family,” Fr Pan Jordan, who works closely with Brisbane’s Tamil community, said.
On July 13, the Department of Home Affairs issued asylum seeker Thileepan Gnaneswaran with a removal notice.
Three days later he was forced to leave behind his wife, Kathika, and their 11-month-old daughter and was deported.
Mr Gnaneswaran, 30, was arrested and interrogated when he landed in Colombo, before being released from police custody.
His case has received international attention, with the United Nations condemning Australia’s deportation policy.
“It is not a way to treat people – separating children from their family. It is contrary to our Catholic values,” Fr Jordan said.
“Our Catholic teaching is very clear that families should be united, not separated. A child has to grow in the presence of father and mother.
“In this case, this 30-year-old man has no way of being reunited with his wife and child. It is absolutely cruel policy.”
Fr Jordan works closely with Tamil refugees in Brisbane and is frustrated that 91 per cent of Sri Lankans, especially Tamils, fail their fast track assessment for a temporary protection or Safe Haven Enterprise visa.
He said country information assessing whether Sri Lanka was safe for asylum seekers to return to their country was produced by the Australian Foreign Affairs Department.
“That information is produced in such a way to say that Sri Lanka is safe to go back,” he said.
“They are not going to take into account information from Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch or what we produce and give directly hearing through the Church and religious there.”
Mr Gnaneswaran and his wife arrived in Australia separately and were married in 2016 in a religious ceremony.
Ms Gnaneswaran said she and her daughter were granted a temporary protection visa, but her husband wasn’t.
“My daughter needs her father for her future … (she) is missing her father,” Ms Gnaneswaran told SBS Tamil.
“She is searching for him everywhere. I just can’t endure this pain.”
The Tamil Refugee Council claims Mr Gnaneswaran was tortured by Sri Lankan security officers prior to his arrival in Australia because his family had strong connections to rebel group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The Department of Home Affairs said the case had “been comprehensively assessed by the Department, the former Refugee Review Tribunal, the Federal Circuit Court, the Full Federal Court and the High Court”.
“Foreign nationals who do not hold a valid visa and who have exhausted all outstanding avenues to remain in Australia are expected to depart voluntarily to their country of citizenship,” a spokesperson said.
“Those unwilling to depart voluntarily will be subject to detention and removal from Australia.”