Threat to deport Biloela family sparks week of protests

September 6, 2019
Sydney protest on September 4 outside the Department of Immigration. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

A Federal Court judge has given the immigration minister David Coleman until September 18 to provide more evidence as to why Nades, Priya, and their two Australian-born children should be deported to Sri Lanka.

The Tamil-descent family had been living in the small town of Biloela, Queensland, for four years before they were put in a Melbourne immigration detention in March last year.

The government tried to deport them on August 29, but a court intervention forced the plane carrying the family to land in Darwin. From there they were taken to Christmas Island, where they are still being held.

Since then, there has been a groundswell of support for the family.

On receiving the news that the family was about to be deported, about 30 people went to Melbourne airport on the night of August 29. 

The family were put on a plane but an injunction prevented their deportation. They were taken to Darwin and then Christmas Island.

Sixty people gathered outside the Federal Court building in Melbourne the next day, where a hearing was held and the injunction extended to September 4.

On September 1, rallies were held in various cities including Biloela, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, Hobart, Newcastle, Perth and Sydney, while more than 500 people marched through the streets of Melbourne. 

Tamil Refugee Council spokesperson Niro Kandasamy spoke at the rally of the physical and psychological damage inflicted on the family in detention, which added to the trauma they had suffered in Sri Lanka.

Greens leader Richard di Natale said the government had traumatised the family and that "if [Prime Minister] Scott Morrison is a true Christian he will show compassion".

On September 4, about 100 people rallied outside the Federal Court hearing, which further extended the injunction until September 6. A rally was also held outside the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in Sydney that day.

Matt Kunkel, from the Victorian Trades Hall Council, said the family are workers and that the union movement will stand by workers wherever they come from. 

Flags from a number of unions were present in the crowd.

Brad Coath, a friend of the family, spoke of the stress the family had been placed under, particularly the children who have now had two birthdays in detention. 

He called on the government to listen to the community and let them stay.

About 60 people rallied outside the Federal Court hearing on September 6, holding placards and chanting "let them stay".

Speakers included Federal Labor MP Josh Burns, Barathan Vidhyapathy from the Tamil Refugee Council, and Victorian Trades Hall Council assistant secretary Carina Garland.

The case has been adjourned to September 18.

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