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Biloela family to remain in detention on Christmas Island following appeal

After spending more than 1,000 days on Christmas Island, the Biloela family will remain in detention but not be deported on the basis of their youngest child’s immigration status.

Priya and Nades Murugappan and their Australian-born daughters Kopika, 5, and Tharunicaa, 3, fled to Australia to seek asylum from the persecution they faced as Tamils in their homeland of Sri Lanka.

They had been living in Biloela in central Queensland, but in 2018 immigration officials transferred them to a Melbourne detention centre.

tamil family (1)
The ‘Biloela’ family (Photo: Facebook)

Originally scheduled to be removed from the country within four days, their transportation to a detention centre was granted on the basis of an urgent injunction that prevented their deportation to Sri Lanka mid-flight. This injunction was granted as the youngest child had not yet been assessed for a protection visa.

This protection visa formed the basis of the court ruling today, when the Federal Court chose to reject the Federal Government’s appeal. The appeal from April 2020, as decided by Justice Mark Moshinsky, ruled that Tharunicaa, the youngest daughter, had been denied procedural fairness while seeking a protection visa and ordered the Federal Government to pay $200,000 in costs.

The case gained traction in 2019, when Immigration Minister (and regular national embarrassment) Peter Dutton and Federal Greens leader Richard Di Natale got into a verbal spar about Tamil family’s situation.

In 2019, Di Natale was recorded saying that “[this case] is senseless cruelty, this is cruelty for the sake of being cruel,” and Dutton hit back at the remarks on Twitter:

Dutton has received an immense amount of flack for his position on the case, copping criticism from journalists, political leaders, and civilians across the board:

In 2019, the Biloela family’s case inspired a series of protests in every capital city, with the Queensland town of Biloela demanding that the Federal Government let the family stay in Australia.

“We are calling on the Federal Government not to deport the Biloela family. They are in real danger if deported back to Sri Lanka,” Refugee Action Collective’s Chris Breen said in 2019. Over the past three years, the Biloela case has highlighted the sickening plight of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia, which have rarely played out on such a public stage – until now.

Australia’s morally-nauseating stance on detention and their treatment of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru has previously been condemned by the UN Refugee Agency, while the Human Rights Watch said in its 2019 World Report that “serious issues [with Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers] remained.”