The Australian-born youngest daughter of a Tamil asylum seeker family has been medically evacuated from Christmas Island to a Perth hospital for treatment of a suspected blood infection.
It has been reported that Tharnicaa Murugappan, aged three, was unwell for ten days, suffering from vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness, and a high temperature, before receiving medical attention on Christmas Island.
On Monday, Tharnicaa, along with her mother, was evacuated from the detention centre and taken to Perth Children’s Hospital for urgent medical treatment.
According to a statement from advocacy group HometoBilo, staff at the detention centre allegedly refused to take Tharnicaa to the medical facility on Christmas Island until Sunday, despite ongoing requests from her mother, Priya, since May 25.
“I am feeling very scared and worried for my little girl,” Priya said in a statement on Monday. “She has been sick for many days, it took a long time for her to get to the hospital.”
“She is already asking for her papa, it is going to be very hard being away from her dad and sister. It is very hard for our family to be separated when our daughter is sick.”
In the statement, Priya said International Health and Medical Services, who are responsible for health services in detention, only gave Tharnicaa Panadol and Nurofen, and gave Priya a piece of paper explaining common flu symptoms. It is believed Tharnicaa has septicaemia, a serious – and sometimes life-threatening – blood infection.
On Tuesday, HomeToBilo released a statment saying Tharnicaa has been diagnosed with untreated pneumonia, which is thought to be the cause of her blood infection.
BREAKING: Tharni has been diagnosed with (untreated) pneumonia.— HometoBilo (@HometoBilo) June 7, 2021
We think this caused her blood infection. How did this go undiagnosed for so long that she became so ill? Please keep her in your thoughts.
Karen Andrews, you can end this little girl’s suffering today. #HomeToBilo pic.twitter.com/exuSk28U5l
Angela Fredericks, a friend of the family and spokesperson for the HometoBilo group, said Tharnicaa’s situation is “another instance of lack of proper medical care for these little Biloela girls”.
“Tharnicaa has been in detention for almost all of her young life. During that time she has suffered vitamin deficiencies due to lack of sunlight and fresh fruit and vegetables,” Fredericks said in a statement.
“She later suffered concussion after an improperly secured whiteboard fell on her head, and was not taken to hospital until hours later when she started vomiting. Now, her needs have been dismissed until she was vomiting and falling over. This is just not good enough.”
Tharnicaa turns four years old on Saturday, and this is the first time she has been separated from her father, Nades, and older sister, Kopika. Tharnicaa has been held in detention since she was 9 months old.
Tharnicaa and her sister, Kopika, were both born in Australia. Their parents, Priya and Nades, came to Australia separately as asylum seekers in 2012 and 2013.
They settled in Biloela, a town in central Queensland and started their family.
The family was taken from their home in Biloela in 2018 and have been on Christmas Island since August 2019. The community in Biloela had previously embraced the family into their town, and some locals started the HomeToBilo group calling for them to be returned to live in the town.
The treatment of the Biloela family by the Australian Govt is shameful and illegal under international law. They should be released immediately and allowed to settle permanently in Australia. #HometoBilo #auspol #politas— Andrew Wilkie MP (@WilkieMP) June 7, 2021
In December 2020, the Australian Medical Association called on the federal government to release the family from detention on Christmas Island.
To date, more than 360,000 people have signed the Home to Bilo petition.