On April 17, Federal Court judge Mark Moshinsky ruled that a Tamil family was denied procedural fairness by the federal immigration minister regarding a visa application made on behalf of the youngest child. The children, Kopiga and Tharunicaa, have been in detention for almost 26 months.
The judge's decision means that the family will not be immediately deported to Sri Lanka, although the final outcome of the legal process remains unclear.
The girl's parents Priya and Nades met in Australia after both had fled from Sri Lanka. They lived in Biloela, Queensland, where they had two children. However, their applications for refugee status were rejected.
The Australian government claims that there is no reason for anyone to fear persecution in Sri Lanka.
But the Tamil Refugee Council disagrees, saying: “Sri Lanka is not safe. Priya fled Sri Lanka after witnessing her fiancé being burned alive by the Sri Lankan Army. Both Priya and Nades have well-founded fears for their safety if they are deported back into the hands of the Sri Lankan government.”
In March 2018, their house in Biloela was raided by police and Border Force officers. They were taken to the Broadmeadows Detention Centre in Melbourne, and later to Christmas Island.
Aran Mylvaganam from the Tamil Refugee Council has called on the Australian government to immediately release the detained family and allow them to return to Biloela: “The Australian government is spending obscene amounts of money to make an example of the family by holding them on Christmas Island and forcing them to fight for their safety through the courts,” he said. “Tharunicaa and Kopliga are wasting away in detention. They are confused and scared on Christmas Island. They are not eating properly ... The family should be brought home to Biloela immediately for rehabilitation before it’s too late.”
Acting Minister for Immigration Alan Tudge and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton have the power to release Priya, Nades and their two girls and allow them to return to Biloela.
[A digital rally to support the Tamil family is being organised for May 2. Chris Slee is an activist with the Refugee Action Collective in Melbourne.]