Crowd holds vigil for Tharnicaa Murugappan at Perth Children’s Hospital
Hundreds of people gathered outside Perth Children’s Hospital Sunday afternoon to hold a vigil for Tamil girl Tharnicaa Murugappan and call for the protection of the rights of asylum seekers.
Many of the protesters held signs saying “asylum isn’t a crime” and “bring them home”. The group united to demonstrate their “disgust” and “shame” over the treatment of the Murugappan family, who have been held in detention on Christmas Island for over 1000 days.
Among the many speakers at the vigil was the Australian Medical Association president Dr Andrew Miller.
Holding onto his three year old daughter, Dr Miller said Tharnicaa — who celebrated her fourth birthday yesterday inside a PCH ward — deserved a birthday celebration like his daughter was going to get.
“No country can rightly use children as a human shield for their border protection,” Dr Miller said.
He said being in detention seriously impacts childhood development.
“Childhood traumas that are inflicted on young children who are incarcerated has both physical and mental long term impacts,” he said.
“We talk all the time about prevention, and clearly we have an opportunity here for these children, through no fault of their own who are in this situation.
“We must reduce the damage that is being caused to them at the moment.”
Vigil organiser Vashti Fox said today's crowd of hundreds was a "really encouraging display".
"There was a big presence from the Perth Tamil population, but also a more broader level of support which is very encouraging," she said.
"This is the third vigil we have held and this is the largest of them all so far. We are hoping things will start moving with the government — the chief medical officer of Western Australia has come out and indicated he is keen to back the family and that they shouldn't go back to danger," she said.
Ms Fox — along with the crowd of hundreds who rallied behind her — said the government needed to abolish its refugee policies as everyone was deserving of "basic human rights".
"For a long period the majority of refugees that were coming here were from conflict zones in the Middle East —- our government was a part of that, they were helping create the situation that led to the refugees," she said.
"The government should also stop backing the Rajapaksa government in Sri Lanka, which causes the oppression and genocidal attacks on the Tamil population."
Ms Fox said allowing the Murugappan family to go back to their home in Biloela would be a new step in generational refugee change.
"Everyone has a right to a fair and decent life, everyone has a right to safety. No one has a right to poverty, no one should be subjected to war. Everyone should be allowed to come (to Australia), and if they can't see the plight of children like Tharnicaa and not feel anything...then maybe they should get their hearts checked," she said.
Other speakers acknowledged the "wonderful treatment" the staff at PCH were providing Tharnicaa, and thanked them for their dedication.
An 11-year-old Tamill girl was one of many to stand up and speak about the oppression the Murugappan family is facing on Christmas Island's detention centre.
After reading a verse of poetry in her native language, the young activist asked the Australian government to let her "sister" Tharnicaa and her family go back home to Biloela.
"Sri Lanka is a dangerous place for their parents. Their safety is guaranteed here in Biloela," the girl said.
The crowd chanted “let them in, let them stay” which echoed across the grounds of the hospital.
Perth musicians led the singing of Happy Birthday to Tharnicaa and were soon joined by the protesters. They said their aim was to sing loud enough so Tharnicaa and her mother Priya could hear from their hospital room.
Tharnicaa’s favourite song Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was sung loudly by the crowd to wrap up the vigil.
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails