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Tamil family to spend second Christmas in Australian detention centre

A Tamil family of four from Biloela, who were detained last year by Australian authorities and sent to detention on Christmas Island, will be spending their second Christmas there.

They will await the verdict of their ongoing battle against to gain asylum, at a Federal court hearing in February. The family will remain in detention until the case concludes, with a two day hearing expected around mid-to-late February, with the final date to be confirmed. 

Priya, Nades Murugappan, and their Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharunicaa were sent to immigration detention in Melbourne initially, following an early morning raid by Australian Border Forces in March 2018. After border force authorities deemed the safety to be compromised due to protests by supporters near the centre, they were transferred to detention on Christmas Island earlier this year.

Following the rejection of Priya, Nades and daughter Kopika’s refugee application, a Federal court hearing will determine whether daughter Tharunicaa will be granted refugee status as she exercises her right to apply for protection.  

This Monday, Justice Mark Moshinsky ordered that lawyers of Tharunicaa be allowed to request documents pertaining to the case, such as internal departmental correspondence, and get them handed over to them. Following the hearing, immigration lawyer Carina Ford said the family were "doing OK" but remained isolated. Priya has previously described the conditions of the detention as “jail-like” but reiterated it was preferable to going back to Sri Lanka.

A last-minute reprieve through a federal court order prevented the family from being deported but the asylum-seeking family’s future has been in limbo ever since.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has insisted the family does not have a future in Australia despite calls from thousands of Australian campaigners and the United Nations to release them from detention. Dutton made controversial remarks in September that this case is costing taxpayers "literally millions of dollars" and that the parents had “anchor babies”. "It's been made very clear to them at every turn that they were not going to stay in Australia and they still had children" he said.

The family were victim to Australia’s rigorous “fast-track” refugee assessment system and many have criticised the mental deterioration and trauma this can bring to families. The family apprehensively await a decision on their future, despite stressing that their families’ past affiliations to the LTTE would result in them being persecuted in Sri Lanka.  

See more from SBS here and The Conversation here.

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