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Kalai has asked us for one thing – protection from persecution in his homeland of Sri Lanka. But last week, our Government chose to remove Kalai from our community and imprison him in detention. Our Government has denied his request for a life of freedom and safety here, and plans to send him back to where he has experienced continual harassment and the death of immediate family members.

We cannot allow our Government to send Kalai away to harm, Kalai must stay. We are a richer community for having Kalai among us, and we must ensure he is able to live here in peace. The Government must choose to release Kalai back into our community and grant him permanent protection so he can get on with rebuilding his life.

We have been lucky to have Kalai on our team at Lentils as Anything. We see first-hand what he contributes to our lives, and the lives of many people in the community. Kalai must stay.

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Kalaichchelvan Murugaiah, affectionately known to his friends as Kalai, is a 39 year old man who has spent the last 2 years volunteering as a chef at Lentils as Anything. Lentils as Anything is a unique not for profit community organisation with six vegetarian restaurants in Australia. Bringing people together around a meal is a philosophy and the pay-as-you-feel concept brings communities together. It is up to the customer to decide what they want to pay for their dining experience. The model is centered on the values of trust, generosity, openness and respect of the human kind. We are lucky to have incredible volunteers that make it possible for Lentils as Anything to operate, and in Kalai we have seen a man who optimises this spirit of respect. 

Always with a smile on his face, Kalai has volunteered over 6000 hours working in our Kitchen, helping prepare over 1.2 million meals. These meals often are consumed by members of the public who face financial restrictions, who otherwise would struggle to receive such nourishing food. We all strive to find a place in our community, where we can be embraced and enrich both ourselves and those around us. Kalai found his place with us at Lentil as Anything, dedicating his time to preparing meals to ensure that everyone, no matter how much they can afford, has access to a hearty meal.

Lentil As Anything volunteer chef detained by Department of Immigration

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We have seen with our own eyes his positive contribution to Melbourne. He is a smart, competent man who has a heart of gold. He lives by the values of a fair-go for all, and has taught us so much about humility and the way he has embraced Australia has been inspiring. In a short two years, he has already managed to give so much to this country. 

Kalai is originally from Sri Lanka, where he worked as a fisherman gripped by a country in civil war. Facing political persecution, continual harassment and the death of immediate family members, Kalai felt he had no alternative other than to undertake the extremely risky journey to Australia. Fearing for the safety of his family, he arranged for his family to flee to Europe. Being forcibly deported to Sri Lanka is not an option for Kalai. He has no family, and will face a very dangerous situation. Kalai MUST stay.

Australia’s immigration policies fail to assess people on the merits of their individual situation, and are at odds with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (1948), to which Australia is a signatory. Moreover, Kalai has successfully proven that he can, has and will contribute to society; his amazing work and Lentils at Anything are a testament to that. The immigration department have the power to allow Kalai to stay, to let him continue his amazing work within the community, and to allow Kalia to live free of fear and persecution. Kalai MUST stay.   

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