Biloela residents travel to Canberra to plead Tamil family's case

Biloela locals have travelled to Parliament House to present a petition signed by 250,000 Australians urging the government to allow a Tamil family to stay in Australia.

Supporters of the Tamil family from their home town in Biloela have travelled to Parliament House.

Supporters of the Tamil family from their home town in Biloela have travelled to Parliament House. Source: SBS News

Biloela residents have travelled to Canberra to make a direct plea to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to allow a Tamil family detained on Christmas Island to return to live in their central Queensland town. 

The town's residents are urging the prime minister to intervene to stop the planned deportation of parents Priya and Nadesalingam and their two children Kopika, 4, and Tharnuicaa, 2. 

Friends of the family, Angela Fredericks and Bronwyn Dendle, are at Parliament House to present a petition signed by more than 250,000 people supporting their campaign to allow the family to stay in Australia. 

Supporters of the Biloela Tamil family arrive to deliver a petition to Prime Minister Scott Morrison at Parliament House.
Source: AAP

The central Queensland residents are also seeking a meeting with Mr Morrison, but have been told it won't be possible at such short notice. 

“When we watch them hand our friends their deportation notice and surround them with guards. That’s short notice," Ms Fredericks told reporters on Wednesday morning. 

The family are being held on Christmas Island while they await a court hearing later this month to decide their youngest daughter's claim for asylum. 

The other three members of the family have already had their refugee claims rejected. 

The outpouring of public support for the Tamil family has failed to sway the government, with Mr Morrison maintaining making an exception for them would lead to more people-smuggling boats from Sri Lanka.  

Ms Fredericks said it had been a "traumatic" week on Christmas Island after one of the floorboards collapsed as Priya was walking. 

She suffered leg injuries and the family, who are the only asylum seekers to have been sent to Christmas Island since it reopened in March, have been moved to another room. 

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Contingency plans

While the campaign is focused on preventing their deportation, supporters have begun making plans to try and protect the family if they are sent back to Sri Lanka. 

Ms Dendle fears father Nades will be arrested, citing the experience of a local doctor who just returned from a trip to Sri Lanka.  

“He said that he is really scared for the family because they’re all over the media over there so there’s a lot of talk about Nades. He’s convinced that as soon as they set foot on Sri Lankan soil he will be arrested by the Sri Lankan government and possibly sent to prison or rehabilitated once he gets back which means torture.”

They also dismissed suggestions from Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton that the family could apply for a visa to return to Australia. 

Priya's friend Angela Fredericks wants the prime minister to intervene to block the family's deportation.
Source: SBS News

There was hope that the meatworks where Nades had previously worked could sponsor him for a temporary skilled shortage visa, but Ms Fredericks said there were many barriers. 

"Upon going to Sri Lanka they will have a 12-month ban in Australia preventing and they will also have a debt to this country so they will not be allowed back while they have a debt."

Failed asylum seekers who are deported face mandatory bans on returning to Australia for between one and three years and are liable for the cost of the deportation. 

In this case, the cost could be several hundreds of thousands of dollars due to flights from Melbourne, Darwin and Christmas Island. 

The group has raised $100,000 for the family so far to cover the cost of humanitarian lawyers and pursuing options to get them out of the country including possible applications to go to a third country. 

"We are looking into every possible option to protect our friends," Ms Fredericks said. 

Published 11 September 2019 at 12:07pm, updated 11 September 2019 at 2:55pm
By Rosemary Bolger