/ 15 June 2021

#HomeToBilo could be possible

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke is expected to make a ‘positive’ decision as soon as today about the future of the Murugappan family, who have been held in detention on Christmas Island since August 2019. The case returned to the spotlight after the couple’s youngest daughter Tharnicaa (4yo) was airlifted to Perth for medical treatment for pneumonia and a blood infection with her mother Priya last week. The eldest daughter Kopika (6yo) and father Nades have remained behind in detention, but reports say the family could be reunited in Perth, and a longer-term arrangement made for them to live freely in Oz.

• Nades and Priya are Tamils from Sri Lanka. They arrived in Australia by boat separately in 2012 and 2013. They say they fled because of the ongoing persecution after separatist forces lost a 26-year civil war in 2009. Nades says he was forced to join the Tamil Tigers in 2001.

• The pair were considered to be ‘unlawful maritime arrivals’ but were granted temporary bridging visas while their refugee claims were assessed. They settled in the central Queensland town of Biloela, married and had their 2 daughters. But their refugee claim was rejected, and their visas ran out in early 2018. That saw them put into detention in Melbourne.

• Legal wrangling ensued, and after the High Court dismissed an application to review the case in May 2019, they were set to be deported – until more drama struck… The plane that was taking them away from Australia was ordered to land in Darwin as a new legal angle opened up on Tharnicaa’s right to stay. Since then, they’ve been in detention on Christmas Island (at the cost of $6.7 million…) as the case winds through the system.

There are options, reports say. Minister Hawke’s independent review could see him use his ministerial intervention powers to grant the family a visa to stay in Australia. There has been growing disgruntlement within the Coalition about the family’s ongoing detention with several MPs speaking out in recent days. Former Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce yesterday said that the girls were born here and that they would be treated differently if their names were “Jane and Sally”. But Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said “I have some real compassion for this family but the primary responsibility of a federal government is to keep its borders secure and its people secure.” If they’re able to get back to Biloela, locals will be pleased – as will those on Christmas Island

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