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Tamil asylum-seeker speaks out from Christmas Island

Priya Murugappan, a Tamil asylum-seeker, currently detained on Christmas Island, spoke at a digital rally organised by the Tamil Refugee Council.

Speaking on the phone from Christmas Island, Priya described the conditions in detention, and the impact it is having on her two young children who are growing up in isolation.

Priya, her husband Nades and their two daughters, Kopika and Tharunicaa have been in detention since March 2018 and continue to face deportation to Sri Lanka.

“It is very dangerous for us in Sri Lanka. The Rajapaksa government is very bad for Tamils. They have killed so many people, including my family members. We are very scared of going back to Sri Lanka,” Priya told the rally.

“Please let us lead a normal life in Biloela,” Priya pleaded.

She added that there is nowhere for her children to play and they are growing up in isolation. Priya also expressed her concern about coronavirus as the detention centre workers are not practising social distancing.  

She pleaded to the Australian government to let her family return to Biloela to seek medical treatment. She said that she is finding it difficult to look after her children due to her medical issues.

See the full video from the digital rally here.

The Biloela family's legal case

The Tamil asylum-seeking family, Priya and Nades Murugappan and their two Australian born daughters Kopika and Tharunicaa, were initially detained in Melbourne during an early morning raid in March 2018. They were detained after their four-year bridging visa expired.

Nades and Priya came to Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013 having separate asylum claims. Priya reported seeing her former husband burnt alive whilst Nades is fearful of returning to Sri Lanka due to his connections to the LTTE. Despite credible concerns over torture and extra-judicial killings in Sri Lanka, the Department of Home Affairs has repeatedly maintained that the family does not meet the criteria for protected status. Australian immigration law prevents “unauthorised maritime arrivals” but discretion can be placed in exceptional cases likes that of the Murugappan family.

Last August the government attempted to deport the family but was prevented by a last-minute injunction from the Federal Court which forced the plane carrying the family to land in Darwin.

The judge ruling on the matter,  Justice Moshinsky, dismissed the first ground of appeals which claimed that a valid application for asylum was made for Tharunicaa in September last year but upheld a second appeal which maintained that Tharunicaa was not “afforded procedural fairness in her appeal for protection”.




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