Indian family's child born in Australia not citizen: Court
Before 1986, any child born in Australia was regarded as Australian.

Canberra, September 09, 2004

Australia's highest court on Thursday ruled that a child born in Australia to two Indian asylum seekers is not an Australian citizen and can be deported.

In a 5-2 majority decision, the High Court dismissed the family's challenge to a federal law that says six-year-old Tania Singh is not Australian.

Under the law, which Tania's father Malkit Singh argued was unconstitutional, a baby born in Australia must have at least one parent who is Australian or a long-term resident of the country to automatically qualify for citizenship.

Malkit Singh, his wife Sarabjeet and their son Navjot, 10, were born in India and arrived in Australia seeking asylum in April 1997.

Tania was born in February 1998 while the family was in home detention, waiting for the outcome of their asylum application, in the rural Victoria state town of Mildura.

Before 1986, any child born in Australia was regarded as Australian. But the law was changed to deny failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants a legal way to stay.

Refugee policy is a contentious political issue here in the run-up to the October 9 elections.

The Singhs' lawyer, Bruce Levet, said the family's refugee application has been rejected and they have been given 28 days from today to return to India.

"The family is shattered," Levet said. "It's very hard for a child ... To be sent to what to her is a foreign country."

Levet said he will apply to Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone to use her ministerial discretion to allow the family to stay.