Two Australian children are spending Easter under guard as Immigration Department officials work to deport their Fijian parents.
The Prasad family, from Eastlakes in Sydney’s south, were taken from their home on Monday. Father Jitend Prasad was originally placed in Villawood detention centre and mother Joytika put under round-the-clock guard with her three children in an apartment in Parramatta.
The Prasads, ethnic Indians, have lost numerous appeals for protection from the Australian government. They said they had been threatened by indigenous Fijians during the 2000 military coup and would be persecuted again if forced to return to village life in Fiji without land or income.
The case is unusual because the couple have two Australian-born children, Jasmita, 15, and her brother Jasneel, 12, who are full Australian citizens and cannot be forced to leave the country, even if their parents are deported.
Lawyers for the family are appealing to the Federal Magistrates Court, arguing the Refugee Review Tribunal did not take into sufficient consideration the rights of the Australian children to remain among family.
The Human Rights Commission is examining the case, but Immigration Minister Peter Dutton warned on Thursday the Prasads would be deported “sooner not later”.
“Those people have been taken into immigration detention and they are awaiting deportation now,” Mr Dutton told 2GB.
“People are entitled to their fair hearing, their fair day in court, but the Australian taxpayers are not going to be taken for mugs and that’s why we have increased dramatically the number of deportations. We aren’t going to pay for their endless legal roundabouts.
“People work hard to pay their taxes. They don’t expect the money to be wasted on cases where there’s no valid reason to stay, and they are only stalling tactics [being] applied. This still has a way to go but they have been taken into immigration detention and they can expect to be deported sooner than later.”
The Prasads say they have not received any welfare since claiming asylum and even their Australian-born children have not been allowed into the Medicare system.
Mr Prasad was moved from Villawood to the Parramatta apartment on Friday.
His uncle, Arun Prasad, said female guards had remained inside the apartment with the family and the children were given food once a day.
“The three-year-old is crying because he does not have enough food,” Mr Prasad said.
Jasmita’s phone has been removed and immigration officials have told Arun and his sons that there will be no more communication with the family from Thursday.