A Tamil family who were removed by Australian authorities from their home in Biloela almost four years ago have won an important court case which will allow them to apply for new bridging visas this week, though their battle against deportation to Sri Lanka continues.
The Murugappan family won their case in the Federal Circuit Court, following a ruling that found Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to prevent three members of the family from applying for bridging visas was procedurally unfair.
Three members of the family - Nades and Priya and their daughter Kopika – were granted bridging visas in June 2021, so that they could live in community detention in Perth whilst the youngest member of the family Tharnicaa received medical treatment. As she was receiving treatment at the time, Tharnicaa has not received a bridging visa, and is subject to an order requiring her to live in community detention.
The family’s lawyer, Carina Ford told Guardian Australia the case “may not change the status quo” for the family, because Tharnicaa is still subject to a community detention order.
The other three bridging visas are due to run out later this year.
The family’s friends and locals in Biloela celebrated the court victory, stating it was a "really big win".
"This is another example where the minister has been found to be procedurally unfair towards our family," said family friend Angela Fredericks, "It's something we all take as a really big win because it's once again reinforcing that when it comes to our friends, so much has not been fair… All we're asking is for the minister to use these powers to do what's right and let our friends come home to Biloela."
"[The Australian government] can choose to appeal or they can choose to leave it as it is, which means then it's open to the family to renew a bridging visa later down the track," Ford told SBS News.
"It's also open for the government to consider whether it's in the interest of both parties to just continue the ongoing saga of this case."
"That means maybe this is the government's chance to make the decision to grant the family a visa so that they can return to Biloela."
Others in Australia also praised the decision, with Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, Kristina Keneally tweeting that Labor welcomed the Court's ruling.
Labor welcomes today’s Federal Court’s decision
— Kristina Keneally (@KKeneally) January 24, 2022
"As has always been the case, the Immigration Minister could bring this whole sorry saga to an end with the stroke of a pen and allow the family to return #hometobilo," she posted.
“This is an important win for the Biloela family,” said Allegra Spender, an independent candidate in Wentworth. “After everything they've been through, the federal government should let them return to their hometown in Queensland.”
This is an important win for the Biloela family.
— Allegra Spender (@spenderallegra) January 24, 2022
“Today’s Federal Circuit Court win is obviously welcome, but the family should not have needed to go to court in the first place,” said Greens Senator Nick McKim said in a statement.
“This Government has spent a fortune to pursue and detain the family, instead of simply allowing them to return to the community that made them so welcome.”
“It has cost the Muruguppans years of their lives and caused extreme anguish."
“...Minister Hawke.... should immediately grant them permanent protection in Australia, including a pathway to become citizens.”