Nationwide rallies have been organised to demand the Tamil refugee family be returned to Biloela. The outpouring of humanity is keeping up the pressure on the federal government to allow the family to stay in Australia.
After a long delay, three-year-old Tharnicaa was taken from Christmas Island detention centre to Perth with her mother Priya where she was found to have pneumonia and sepsis.
Priya and Nades and their two young daughters Kopica and Tharnicaa were taken from their home in the Queensland town of Biloela in a dawn raid three years ago. After a period in a Melbourne detention centre they were sent to Christmas Island.
In Perth, up to 300 people rallied outside the Children’s hospital on June 9 to show their support for Tharnicaa Murugappan, who had been hospitalised 10 days prior.
In Sydney, more than 200 people turned out for a candlelight vigil on June 10, called by Mothers for Refugees, Reclaim the News, RAC, Grandmothers Against Refugees and Home to Bilo. Labor Senator Kristina Keneally, Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi, Dr Kerryn Phelps, actor Michael Caton, sports commentator and activist Craig Foster and Tamil Refugee Council activist Renuga Inpakumar addressed the crowd.
A vigil was organised in Brisbane on June 11. Refugee rights supporters gathered in Cairns on June 12, Tharnicaa’s fourth birthday.
In Melbourne, 300 people joined a protest. Refugee Action Collective member Chris Breen said the family had been isolated on Christmas Island without adequate medical care for political reasons: the government wants to cut them off from their supporters.
Barathan Vidhyapathy from the Tamil Refugee Council blamed Labor and Coalition governments for the cruel refugee policy which includes mandatory detention. He reminded the crowd about other detained refugees, urging people not to forget about them. Tamil man Rajan has been detained for 11 years, despite being recognised as a refugee and suffering from leukemia.
Labor MP Josh Burns expressed his indignation that a young girl was spending her fourth birthday in hospital with untreated pneumonia. In response to some heckling, he admitted that the ALP “has not been perfect”.
Samantha Ratnam, leader of the Greens in the Victorian parliament, said the government’s aim in locking up the family was to “make an example” of them. But, she said, “You can't deter people who want to save their lives and the lives of their family”.
Nick Holas from the Home to Bilo campaign said that half a million support signatures have been collected through change.org.
Mostafa Azimitabar, also known as Moz, a recently released refugee, said systemic racism and a racist government was behind the family’s detention.
He criticised those Labor MPs for coming out in support of this family but who do not support other refugees, such as those detained in the nearby Park Hotel.
The rally ended with children singing Happy Birthday and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, which was videoed and sent to Thanicaa.