Vigil for Biloela family

March 8, 2021
Vigil in Melbourne marking three years since Priya, Nades and their children were snatched from their home in Biloela. Photo: Gabriel Cameron

About 60 people gathered in Parliament Gardens on March 5 to show support for a Tamil family detained on Christmas Island. This was one of 18 similar vigils around Australia.

The vigil was held on the third anniversary of a dawn raid by Australian Border Force officers on the family's home in Biloela, Queensland. Priya, Nades and their two young children were dragged away, with only 10 minutes to pack a few possessions. 

After being detained in Melbourne for more than a year, they were sent to Christmas Island.

Tamil Refugee Council member Barath Vidhyapathy told the vigil that Priya and Nades had fled persecution and danger in Sri Lanka. They had experienced freedom in Biloela, but it had been "snatched away".

Vidhyapathy said that Tamils had suffered genocide under Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is now the president of Sri Lanka. This was a reference to the massacre of tens of thousands of Tamils in 2009, when Rajapaksa was defence secretary.

Vidhyapathy said that the war is now over, but torture is not.

Messages were read out from the family. Priya and Nades thanked those who are supporting their struggle for freedom. Priya said: "The love and support I feel from outside keeps me strong." 

Five-year-old Kopika said she missed her friends from Biloela.

The crowd observed three minute's silence to commemorate the three years of detention. They then sang the children's favourite song, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star".

Afterwards, most participated in a 200-strong demonstration to demand freedom for all detained refugees.

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