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Fate of Biloela Tamil asylum-seeker family to be delivered over phone

A Tamil family of four from Biloela - fighting deportation since being detained in March 2018 - will find out whether they can stay in Australia when the Federal Court delivers its decision on the family’s last-ditch legal bid, over the phone.

The family’s court proceedings which became a matter of nationwide attention and usually sees large crowds of community members and supporters, will have its final decision delivered directly to lawyers over the phone this Friday, due to social distancing restrictions implemented because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Despite this, the family’s lawyer Carina Ford insisted that a lack of publicity would not hinder the public sentiment towards the family.

“If anything, immigration detention in the current circumstances has actually caused an even greater media profile for this case and that’s because of the circumstances in which they are being detained,” she said.

“There’s a lot of sympathy in the community about their detention given what people are experiencing at the minute with self-isolation and long periods at home - they have been doing that since March 2018,” she added.

Coronavirus concerns

Last week, the family expressed their concern with the number of guards that came into contact with their family amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19.

Despite requiring to self-isolate for 14 days before entering Christmas Island, Ms Ford highlighted that many guards had not been complying with this obligation.  

“There are about 10 to 15 staff daily coming into contact with us. If I was living in my own house then I could control who comes in and doesn’t come in and I would feel safer,” said the mother, Priya.

Human Rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch have criticised the handling of the inmates at detention centres and prisons of Australia during the coronavirus pandemic.

Final Verdict

Justice Mark Moshinsky is set to produce the verdict on whether two-year-old, Tharunicaa will be permitted to apply for protection visa after the other three members of the family had been denied refugee status.

The case has been going on for over two months but the verdict will conclude a two-year-battle to keep the family in Australia, who fear they face persecution if forced to return to Sri Lanka for their past family affiliations to the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

A positive ruling in favour of the family would allow Tharunicaa to apply for a bridging visa while her claim is assessed, but the Department of Home Affairs will still reserve the right to give a final decision on whether or not she is allowed permanent stay in Australia. 

Ms Ford, has insisted that the legal team would consider an appeal, if their arguments were denied.

“The youngest child would clearly be eligible to put in for a bridging visa application and we would hope, given that the preference is not to separate the family unit, that it would therefore potentially mean the family could be reunited outside the detention centre and potentially return to Biloela,” she said.

The family have been described to be feeling “very flat” from their long wait for the verdict, but the Department of Home Affairs have repeatedly insisted that the family does not fit the criteria for a protection visa. 

Read more here

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