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UNHEARD: Australia’s Refugee Policy Described As 'One Of The Harshest And Cruelest’ In The World

Stewart Perrie

| Last updated 

UNHEARD: Australia’s Refugee Policy Described As 'One Of The Harshest And Cruelest’ In The World

The Australian government has been fairly proud of their immigration policy since they championed the Operation Sovereign Borders back in 2013.

It essentially allowed authorities to tow asylum seeker boats back to their country of origin, regardless of the threats posed.

The government has also been running offshore detention centres on Nauru, and Christmas and Manus Islands since 2001 (they recently announced they were closing the latter). They force people fleeing horrible scenes back home into cells while they process the refugee claims.

While the government has proudly claimed that children are no longer being kept in immigration detention, the story of Priya and Nades Murugappan and their Australian-born daughters, Kopika and Tharunicaa, begs to differ.


The latest episode of the docuseries UNHEARD dives into how this family of four were removed from their regional Queensland home and locked up on Christmas Island.

Priya and Nades fled their native Sri Lanka during the country's civil war and boarded separate people smuggling boats in 2012 and 2013 to make a new life in Australia.

After being granted temporary bridging visas, they met and married in 2014. They moved to regional Biloela and became a part of the community.


Four years later, Australian Border Force personnel took Priya, Nades and their young children from their Queensland home and moved them to the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation facility in Broadmeadows.

The fifth episode of UNHEARD explains how this happened, under concerning circumstances that saw the kids separated from their parents and given virtually no food over a 24-hour period.

Child and family psycharatrist, Dr Sarah Mares, questioned why such heavy force was used and highlighted how such an event can cause deep psychological issues for everyone involved.

Credit: LADbible Australia
Credit: LADbible Australia

In June 2018, the Federal Court ruled Priya wasn't eligible to stay in Australia, while Nades' rights of appeal were already extinguished. It added that there was no longer a threat to their safety if they were to return to Sri Lanka.

They had been stuck on Christmas Island ever since and despite multiple attempts to deport them, they have been saved by numerous appeals and injunctions. They recently moved to Perth after the youngest member of the family developed an acute illness.

Dr Mares explained how that length of time in immigration detention is incredibly brutal and is worried about how it will impact on the young children.

Australia has one of the longest time frames for refugees in detention centres while their claims are processed.


National Justice Project Director George Newhouse believes Australia has one of the harshest and cruelest refugee policies in the world.

The UNHEARD episode hears from two other people who are in or have been in immigration detention and they are begging for the system to be overhauled.

You can watch the series on Amazon Prime Video now.

To support the fight against racial injustice visit ladbible.com/unheard

Featured Image Credit: Home To Bilo/Twitter

Topics: Australia

Stewart Perrie
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