Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he cannot “in good conscience” allow a Sri Lankan Tamil couple and their Australian-born children facing deportation to stay in Australia, saying any softening of the government’s hardline boats policy would be exploited by people smugglers, The Guardian reported.
Despite public rallies over the weekend in support of the family and calls from Labor to show “compassion” in the case, Scott Morrison said he would not be granting an exception.
“That’s not how you run strong borders,” he said.
“I do understand the real feeling about this and the desire for there to be an exception but I know what the consequences are of allowing those exceptions.
“I know what happens when you send those messages back into those communities, whether it’s in Sri Lanka or the more than 10,000 people sitting in Indonesia right now who would get on a boat tomorrow if they thought this government was changing its position.”
When asked if his government was out of step with the public mood, Morrison said: “It’s not about the public mood, it’s about what is the right decision in Australia’s national interests to ensure that the integrity of our border protection regime is maintained.”
The prime minister also encouraged the family to apply to come to Australia once they were retuned to Sri Lanka using “the same processes as everyone else anywhere else in the world”.
“I would hope they do, but they didn’t come to the country in the appropriate way, they have not been found to have an asylum claim, and to change our policy on this or to exercise intervention powers on this would be to send exactly the wrong message to those who are looking to sell tickets to vulnerable people looking to get on boats,” he said.
“It would send them the exact wrong message and that’s not something that I, in good conscience, can allow to happen.”
Morrison who, when immigration minister in the Abbott government, repeatedly refused to discuss “on-water matters”, defended the Coalition’s decision to publicise information about recent Sri Lankan boat interceptions in the Australian newspaper on Monday.