Peter Dutton: 'We Have A Big Heart When It Comes To Cases That Are Worthy'

Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton has said the Tamil family are welcome to apply for an Australian visa after they have been deported to Sri Lanka, but continue resists calls to use ministerial power to allow them to stay.

Priya, Nadesalingam and their two Australian-born daughters Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2, are currently detained on Christmas Island, after the Federal Court in Melbourne extended an injunction preventing the government from deporting them until a court hearing on Friday.

Speaking to media from Brisbane on Thursday morning, Dutton said the asylum seeker family could apply for an Australian visa "if they meet the conditions of the visa" after being deported.

He added that Australia has "a tough policy when it comes to border protection, but we have a big heart when it comes to looking at those cases that are worthy."

Peter Dutton
Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton. Photo: AAP.

However, Abul Rizvi, a former senior official inside the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, says the family would be automatically subject to Section 48 of the Migration Act 1958, barring them from applying for a visa.

He also they'd be left with the costs of their detention and transportation to date, which he estimates could exceed $1 million.

READ MORE: Isolated And Watched: Tamil Family Speaks Out From Christmas Island

"Just think about the cost of a charter flight to Christmas Island, that would have cost $60,000 to $70,000 alone," he told the Canberra Times, adding that such debts had been used "many, many times before" to keep people out of Australia.

On Twitter, Rizvi added the family had "zero chance of returning. Dutton would have been briefed on this. He is again being misleading."

Dutton has been widely criticised for not using ministerial discretion to allow the family to stay. Labor leader Anthony Albanese has repeatedly said Dutton's response is hypocritical when compared to the minister helping two au pairs who had been wrongly issued tourist visas.

Around 250,000 people have signed a petition to bring the family home to Biloela. Photo: Facebook.

"The only difference here is that in the au pair cases someone had Peter Dutton's mobile number to ring him," Albanese told 2GB's Alan Jones, who has also been advocating for the family to be allowed to stay.

Albanese, who arrived in Biloela this week, denied in a separate press conference that Labor advocating for the family was a shift in Labor policy, and that ministerial discretion was there "so that if there are particular circumstances around a case, the minister can say it is in Australia's interests for people to be granted a visa."

He added: "Peter Dutton is happy to do that for au pairs when someone has his number."

On Thursday, Dutton said this was a "ridiculous comment to make", accusing the Labor leader of being "desperate for relevance at the moment".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also ruled out allowing the family to stay, saying the government could not be seen to change its position on the basis of a "public reaction" to the family's plight.

On Wednesday, the family was reunited with friend Angela Fredericks, who spent $3,000 flying to Christmas Island to support the family.

Footage from 10 News First captured the tearful reunion, as Fredericks and Priya embraced.

Fredericks and Priya embrace on Christmas Island. Photo: 10 News First

"There is so much love, we're very lucky," Priya told 10 News First, speaking through Fredericks, who added: "We just want our friends back."

READ MORE: Tearful Reunion For Biloela Family With Friend On Christmas Island

Fredericks launched an "emergency fund" fundraiser on Thursday morning, which raised $30,000 in a matter of hours. The money, which has a target of $1 million, aims to pay off the debt the family will face if they apply for a visa after deportation.

An injunction preventing the family's deportation has been extended until 4pm on Friday.

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