Tamil family given 12-month visas but no reunion in Biloela

Tamil family given 12-month visas but no reunion in Biloela

Three members of the Tamil asylum seeker family fighting to return to the central Queensland town of Biloela have been given 12-month bridging visas, exceeding what was promised last week.

But the family are still stuck in Perth, where they live in detention in the community, because the youngest daughter of the Murugappan family, Tharnicaa, has not received a visa.

Nades and Priya Murugappan with their daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa. 

Supporters were concerned the family would be sent back into a closed immigration detention centre or deported to Sri Lanka when their bridging visas expired on Wednesday this week.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke last week made an undertaking to grant the mother Priya, father Nades, and eldest daughter Kopika, 6, a further three-month bridging visa from Thursday this week on compassionate grounds unless new adverse material came to light.

But that was suddenly extended to a 12-month visa during a meeting with the family on Thursday, supporter Angela Fredericks told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Supporter Angela Fredericks is one of the founders of the “Home to Bilo” movement.Credit:Fairfax Media

Ms Fredericks said the family were relieved and thankful for an extra year of security in Australia after the “surprise” news, but they were still hoping to return to their former home of Biloela permanently.

“We’re feeling very relieved knowing the family are safe for another year. It’s still bitter-sweet, though; the fact they’re still trapped in Perth,” she said.

“I’m desperately wanting to get them to Biloela, so I can give them a hug.”

Ms Fredericks said Mrs Murugappan had “so much thanks” for Australians who called the minister’s office to campaign for the family to remain in the country.

The family’s immigration lawyer Carina Ford said her clients were relieved their three bridging visas were extended by a year.

“This is a step in the right direction,” Ms Ford wrote on Twitter.

The next step the minister needed to take was to allow the family to return to their home in Biloela, she said.

Lawyers for the family have been challenging a ministerial decision on June 22 preventing the three from re-applying for bridging visas. They argued the family were denied procedural fairness, which the government rejects.

Judge Heather Riley is expected to hand down a decision in the Federal Circuit and Family Court next month.

The latest legal bid comes after the High Court last month refused to hear an appeal on behalf of the Murugappan family’s youngest daughter, four-year-old Tharnicaa, who was born in Australia along with her older sister.

Nades and Priya fled Sri Lanka separately, coming by boat to Australia in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

They met and married in Australia and had their two daughters after settling in Biloela, a 6½ hour drive north of Brisbane, with a population of fewer than 6000.

In March 2018, they were taken from Biloela and sent to detention in Melbourne before being moved to Christmas Island.

Priya and Nades at their wedding in 2014. The couple met in Australia.

In June, the family were released into community detention in Perth while Tharnicaa was treated in hospital for sepsis.

Ms Fredericks said the family were self-sufficient in Biloela, where they have supporters waiting for them. She said the hospital in the town was sufficient to cater for Tharnicaa’s needs, but Brisbane would be the next best option if not.

Mr Hawke declined to comment on individual circumstances.

With Zach Hope

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