Biloela Tamil family to spend second Christmas in detention limbo

The detained Biloela Tamil family. Source: Supplied

A Tamil family will remain in detention on Christmas Island until a Federal Court hearing in their deportation fight.

A Tamil asylum-seeker family detained on Christmas Island will remain there for at least two more months ahead of a Federal Court trial.

Sri Lankan couple Priya and Nades Murugappan, and their Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharunicaa, are fighting federal government attempts to deport the family.

Priya, Nades and Kopika have already been refused refugee status, but a Federal Court fight hinges on Tharunicaa and her right to apply for protection.

The family had settled in the Queensland country town of Biloela before being taken to detention in Melbourne in March 2018, then transferred to Christmas Island earlier this year.

A hearing is scheduled for two days in mid-to-late February, and the family will remain in detention until the case is finalised.

It will likely to be heard during the weeks beginning February 17 or 24, but the precise timing has not been finalised.

Kopika and Tharunicaa
Kopika and Tharunicaa are facing a a second Christmas in detention limbo.

Justice Mark Moshinsky on Monday also made an order allowing lawyers for Tharunicaa to request documents about the case, such as internal departmental correspondence, be handed over to them.

After the hearing, immigration lawyer Carina Ford said the Tamil family were "doing OK" but remained isolated.

The government in August moved to deport Priya, Nades, their-then four-year-old Kopika and Tharunicaa, two, before a last-minute court order forced the plane destined for Sri Lanka to land in Darwin.

The United Nations has asked they be released from Christmas Island detention but the government won't allow it.

Priya previously described the conditions as jail-like but said it was preferable to being returned to Sri Lanka.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

SBS News contacted the Department of Home Affairs about why the family is being held on Christmas Island.

A spokesperson pointed to Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram's comments at Senate Estimates in October.

"Christmas Island was an option for me as the best place to manage the safety and security, subject to being able to satisfy myself that the family were able to access services, that the amenity there was suitable for children of the family and that we'd be able to manage any remote issues," he said at the time.

He said Melbourne detention was unsuitable as "I thought that protest activity caused a particular sort of risk to safety and security".

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has repeatedly said the family will not remain in Australia.

In September, he controversially accused the parents of having "anchor babies" and said the case is costing taxpayers "literally millions of dollars".

"It's been made very clear to them at every turn that they were not going to stay in Australia and they still had children."

He has also said 1,500 other Tamils who arrived in Australia by boat have "safely" been deported back to Sri Lanka.

The family claims they would face persecution in Sri Lanka because of past family links to the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The Tamil Tigers separatist group were proscribed as a terrorist group by 32 countries during their insurgency against the Sri Lankan government. The militants were effectively defeated in 2009, after 26 years of bloody conflict.

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