Two-year-old girl in Australian immigration detention centre denied birthday cake

Tharunicaa and Kopika
Tharunicaa and Kopika have spent more than a year in a Melbourne detention centre. Photo credit: Givealittle

A toddler being held in a Melbourne detention centre wasn't allowed a cake for her second birthday.

Tharunicaa's parents, Nades and Priya, were arrested at their Queensland home in March 2018 because their visa had expired by one day.

The entire family has been placed in immigration detention despite the couple's two young daughters having been born in Australia. The family fled Sri Lanka to escape the country's persecution of its Tamil population.

Tharunicaa recently turned two - her second birthday inside the detention centre. The Guardian reports visitors were prevented from bringing her a birthday cake, despite Nades having completed a complex application process and submitting a special food request to Border Force.

"Baby's not doing happy birthday," Tharunicaa's four-year-old sister Kopika told Crikey.

The same thing happened last year on her first birthday, The Guardian reports.

There are special rules around outside visitors bringing in food for detainees, including that it must only be eaten in the visiting area and all leftovers must be thrown out.

Australia's shadow immigration minister Kristina Keneally has condemned the decision.

"Honestly, are we now at the point of denying a two-year-old a birthday cake?" she wrote on Twitter.

"Yes, there are rules in place, but surely common sense and compassion cut in somewhere, even in the [Scott Morrison] Government."

Tharunicaa and Kopika's presence in the centre has been a source of controversy in Australian politics.

Home affairs minister Peter Dutton has repeatedly denied there are any children in detention. Tharunicaa's family is being held in a residential precinct, which the home affairs department described as an "alternative place of detention" and referred to its inhabitants as "detainees".

The two girls have been given as little as half an hour a day to play outside. In May they were permitted to go to a playgroup for the first time, The Guardian reports.

Tharunicaa's teeth are in very bad condition and her mother claims she isn't being allowed proper dental treatment.

Almost 200,000 people have signed a petition demanding the family be allowed to return to their home in the rural Queensland community of Biloela, where they have lived for more than three years.