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'Why can't we go back to Biloela?' - Tamil family faces new legal hurdles in Australia

Kopika (left) and Tharunicaa (right)

A Tamil asylum-seeking family-of-four is fighting another hurdle to stay in Australia, after a new deportation appeal from the government which is being heard before the Full Federal Court.

Nades and Priya Murugappan and their Australian-born daughters Kopika, 5, and Tharunicaa, 3, have been on Christmas island since March 2018, awaiting the final decision on their case. 

The full bench of the federal court on Wednesday heard an appeal by Angel Aleksov, the family’s barrister, the family and the federal government. In April, Federal Court Justice Mark Moshinsky ruled in favour of the family, finding Tharunicaa, the youngest daughter, had been denied procedural fairness in her protection visa application.

The government is appealing the decision, though the current legal procedure will not whether the family will be allowed back to Biloela, but whether they will be allowed to continue their fight to stay in Australia. 

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had lifted the bar on 7,500 people who arrived in Australia by boat between 2008 and 2013.

Earlier this year, Aleksov argued before Justice Moshinsky that the bar was lifted for Tharunicaa at the time, even though she was only a month old and her mother Priya’s application was under review. He argued that Tharunicaa was not a part of her mother’s application and must be processed separately. Justice Moshinky agreed, ordered their cost of $206,934.33 be paid.

Tharunicca’s parents and sister had previously had their claims for protection refused. Appeals to the courts about the fairness of the process in their cases were not successful.

In July, Dutton accused the family of 'playing funny games' in the courts to prevent their deportation, costing taxpayers more than $10million.

'This is a situation that is of their own making - it is ridiculous, it is unfair on their children - it sends a very bad message to other people who think they can rort the system as well,' Dutton claimed in an interview with 2GB radio.

Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton 

However, one of the family’s lawyers Carina Ford argued against Dutton stating the family is unfairly being forced to stay in detention stating:

“The same argument applies that [Dutton’s] being unfair by detaining them, it's as simple as that,'

'I feel that trying to flip it around and blame the parents like that hasn't worked for Minister Dutton. I think people can see that it doesn't make sense for the person detaining the children to blame the parents.'

'We are using taxpayer dollars to detain them but they could be in the community while their case is pending, actually contributing, because Nades used to work in the local meatworks, and costing the taxpayer no money."

Senator Jacqui Lambie also spoke out against Dutton stating: 

"The community obviously loves them... they have been great people to have here... if I was [Dutton], I'd show some compassion and heart. 

This picture was taken before the family was detained

The family’s story

The family was detained in an early morning raid in March 2018 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 and was raped in the civil war, 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.

Priya pleaded to the public in a digital rally stating:

“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,”

“Please let us lead a normal life in Biloela”

The family are all currently being detained in a one-bedroom cabin, with no internet access, frequently broken washing machine facilities and no outdoor play area.

The family is also under constant escort by guards outside of the centre, including to and from school.

“Kopika comes back very upset. Kopika doesn’t like it, she is missing friends,” Priya said. “All the time she is growing up ... she understands ... She wants to go outside and playing with other kids.”

“I like going to school and I don’t like [it] here,” said Kopika whilst her mother was being interviewed. “I want to go to Biloela. I want to go shopping and I want to go in my dad’s car.”

To find out how you can help the Murugappan family, visit their site here.

See more information about the legal case here and here.


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