Senator Jacqui Lambie has slammed the federal government's "inhumane" treatment of a Tamil asylum seeker family, saying it had resulted in a three-year-old girl becoming "gravely ill".
The Tasmanian independent senator said the Murugappan family of four, who were detained on Christmas Island in August 2019, should be allowed to return to the rural Queensland town of Biloela, where they had previously been living.
Her comments come after Tharnicaa Murugappan, 3, was flown to Perth Children's Hospital on Monday, after reportedly being unwell with a high temperature for two weeks and experiencing symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea.
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A friend of the family, Angela Fredericks, said Tharnicaa had been diagnosed with pneumonia and sepsis but was in a stable condition at the hospital.
Senator Lambie said "locking up two kids on a tiny island" would not deter people smugglers.
"It's inhumane," she said. "It's putting those kids' lives at risk for the sake of a political message."
"The fact that our government is willing to let a three-year-old girl get gravely ill so the PM can look like he's tough on borders absolutely floors me. There's no reason to sink that low."
Senator Lambie said Prime Minister Scott Morrison should "show a little heart and find a way to bring [the Biloela family] home".
"Making one exception and letting the family come back to a community that loves them isn't going to start the boats back up again," she said. "[Mr Morrison] knows we have ways to stop that from happening. It's one exception, which the Morrison government has the power to make. Most people understand that you get special cases sometimes, and this is one of those times."
"Offering this family a bit of grace isn't going to start the boats up again. If it were, I wouldn't back it.
"The community of Biloela loves them, and those kids know Australia as home. Commonsense needs a look-in here."
The fact that our government is willing to let a three-year-old girl get gravely ill so the PM can look like he's tough on borders absolutely floors me. There's no reason to sink that low.Jacqui Lambie, Tasmanian independent senator
The government has indicated that it is seeking to resettle the family in the United States or New Zealand.
"We are going through the process now of investigating a range of resettlement options in relation to a number of different circumstances here in Australia," Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said on Tuesday.
In February this year, the full Federal Court upheld a decision that Tharnicaa had been denied procedural fairness in the government's handling of her visa application.
The federal Opposition has called on Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to intervene in the matter and allow the family to remain in Australia.
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