Australia rejects UN call to release Tamil family

The family of four have been held for the last month at the Christmas Island detention facility. (File/AFP)
Updated 04 October 2019

Australia rejects UN call to release Tamil family

  • The family is held at the Christmas Island detention facility
  • Their two children were born in Australia

SYDNEY: Australia has rejected a United Nations call to release a Tamil asylum-seeking family from offshore detention after the UN weighed in on a case that has galvanized huge public support.
The family of four has been held at the Christmas Island detention facility for the past month while their fight to stay in the country is before the courts.
Kokilapathmapriya Nadesalingam and Nadesalingam Murugappan, from Sri Lanka, arrived in Australia by boat separately in 2012 and 2013 seeking asylum and have not been accepted as refugees.
Their two children, Kopika and Tharunicaa, were both born in Australia and the family’s legal battle hinges on the youngest daughter as her lawyer argues her claim has never been assessed.
Lawyer Carina Ford made a submission to the UN’s Human Rights Committee last month on the toddler’s behalf.
In an October 1 letter, seen by AFP, the committee says in response that it “has requested the State party to transfer (the family) within 30 days into a community setting arrangement or to find another way to end their existing situation of detention.”
A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said in a statement that the department was “aware” of the UN’s request, but the family would remain on Christmas Island while their case was under judicial review.
Family friend Angela Fredericks described the UN’s position as “confirmation” that detention facilities were “no place for children or for families.”
“We’ve seen that over the last 19 months with the emotional and physical damage that has occurred to these girls,” she told AFP.
Australia’s hard-line immigration policies include turning away refugees arriving by boat and offshore detention, both measures condemned by the United Nations.
The Tamil family settled in a small rural Queensland town of Biloela, where their neighbors have banded together to push for them to be allowed to remain, a campaign that has received support even from some right-wing commentators and politicians.
A Federal Court judge ruled last month there was enough evidence for the toddler’s case to go to trial, though a date has not yet been set.
Both children were born in Australia but do not have citizenship. They have never been to Sri Lanka.


Kosovo declares Nobel laureate Handke ‘persona non grata’

Updated 12 December 2019

Kosovo declares Nobel laureate Handke ‘persona non grata’

  • The Swedish Academy’s pick for the 2019 prize has reopened old wounds in the Balkans, where many see Handke as an apologist for Serb atrocities
  • Tuesday’s award ceremony was boycotted by representatives of the embassies of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Turkey

PRISTINA: Kosovo declared Peter Handke a ‘persona non grata’ on Wednesday in the latest protest against his induction as a Nobel literature laureate, barring the Austrian writer from a place he has visited numerous times.
The Swedish Academy’s pick for the 2019 prize has reopened old wounds in the Balkans, where many see Handke as an apologist for Serb atrocities during Yugoslavia’s bloody collapse.
One Nobel committee member resigned over the choice, while Tuesday’s award ceremony was boycotted by representatives of the embassies of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Turkey.
“Today I have decided to declare Peter Handke as not welcome in Kosovo. He is a non-grata person... Denying crimes and supporting criminals is a terrible crime,” Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli wrote on Facebook.
The writer is not popular among Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian-majority, who fought Belgrade for independence in a 1998-99 war that claimed 13,000 lives.
But he was a frequent guest in the tiny Serb enclave of Velika Hoca, one of several small ethnic Serb communities scattered around the former Serbian province.
Handke has visited Velika Hoca at least five times and donated nearly €100,000 ($110,000) to the community of 500 people, whose village is nestled among the rolling hills of southern Kosovo.
“Even if there are big problems, I think life has a good rhythm here,” the writer said during a 2014 visit.
“I can be alone here. I can hide. I can walk very hidden behind the hills,” he added.
Handke’s elevation to Nobel laureate has also been painful for many Bosnian Muslims, as he is accused of questioning the genocide in Srebrenica, where Bosnian Serbs slaughtered 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995.
On Wednesday he was formally barred from Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo, where the regional government said his appearance would “provoke the anger and humiliation” of war victims.
Yet he is still welcome to visit the Serb-run zone that spans nearly half of Bosnia’s territory — a legacy of the war that left the country carved up along ethnic lines.
On Tuesday Handke told RTRS, the public broadcaster in Bosnia’s Serb-run region that he would like to visit “in the spring.”
Handke has defended his work and denied any allegiance to the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Critics say Handke made his loyalties clear by speaking at the funeral of Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial in The Hague for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Handke’s 1997 book “A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia” was also accused of minimizing Serb war crimes.
But among Serb fans, Handke is still celebrated for taking note of their suffering during the conflicts and challenging the narrative that Serbs were the sole aggressors in the wars.
In Belgrade, one politician suggested creating a human rights prize in Handke’s name on Wednesday.
Handke was one of “very few who searched for the truth during the 1990s,” said MP Mirjana Dragas, describing the author as a “brave, but above all great, novelist.”