Refugee rights campaigners rallied outside the Federal Court on February 21 to voice their support a Tamil family facing deportation.
Parents, Priya and Nades, met in Australia after fleeing Sri Lanka to escape the state-sponsored oppression of Tamils. They have two Australian-born children, Kopika and Tharunicaa.
The family lived in the Queensland town of Biloela for four years until they were snatched by police and Border Force officers in an early morning raid in March 2018.
Priya and Nades had sought asylum, but were rejected by Australian officials. The courts can not examine the merits of their asylum claims, only whether officials followed correct procedures. The current case deals with Tharunicaa’ asylum claim.
Brad Coath, a member of Home to Bilo, explained that the family had been living as part of the Biloela community until they were “ripped from their home” and taken to a detention centre in Melbourne two years ago. Then, in August 2019, they were taken to Christmas Island, cutting them off from friends and supporters in Melbourne.
Coath said that Priya and Nades feel “overwhelming isolation” on Christmas Island. Four-year-old Kopika goes to school on the island, but is accompanied by Serco guards, marking her out from the rest of her classmates. Two-year-old Tharunicaa goes to play group one day per week, but remains isolated the rest of the time.
Coath said that acting immigration minister Alan Tudge has spoken about the need for new migrants to go to regional areas. Priya and Nades had done this: Nades was working in the Biloela meatworks. Yet, the family was removed from the community.
Coath said returning the family to Biloela is a matter of “common sense”. He added that that detaining the family on Christmas Island had so far cost taxpayers $27 million.
Max Costello, a former prosecutor for Workcover, spoke of the government’s failure to protect the family’s health and safety while in detention, and said this is a criminal offence under workplace health and safety law.
Rally participants sang children’s songs such as “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” in support of the detained children.