'Let them stay'

Protest for Neelavannan Paramanathan and his wife Suganthini. Photo: Ali Bakhtiarvandi

More than 300 people braved rain on January 11 in a last ditch attempt to save a Tamil family from deportation to Sri Lanka.

Neelavannan Paramanathan and his wife Suganthini fled Sri Lanka in 2008 in the midst of the civil war. They sought asylum in Australia in 2012, and settled in Ballarat with their three daughters in 2013.

There is no guarantee of their safety if they return to Sri Lanka, as violence against Tamils continues. There is well-documented evidence of harsh treatment and human rights abuses by the Sri Lankan government and military.

Concerns have been raised that if they were forced back to Sri Lanka, two of the children would not be recognised as citizens because they were born abroad.

The protest comes after almost 2000 people signed a petition last year, calling for the family to stay in Australia.

The family are surviving day to day on the generosity of the Ballarat Rural Australians for Refugees who are providing them with food and ongoing financial support.
Event organiser Cathie Bond from Ballarat Regional Australians for Refugees said it was time the federal government showed compassion.

"We as a society benefit from acts of kindness,” she said. “If this government can treat these vulnerable people so cruelly, what kind of impact does that have on the whole of society?”

A spokesperson for immigration minister Peter Dutton said the family's case had been considered by the government but all avenues for staying in Australia had been exhausted.

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