Immigration

Deportation of Biloela family a 'heartbreaking' blow for other Tamil refugees: Advocates

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The hashtag #HometoBilo has become the top trending topic on Twitter, as thousands of Australians ask the federal government to stop a Tamil refugee family from being deported to Sri Lanka.

The Australian government's move to deport a Tamil asylum seeker family is a devastating blow to the 6,000 other Tamil refugees hoping to remain in Australia, a refugee advocate says.

Priya, her husband Nadesalingam and their two Australian-born daughters were put on a flight to Sri Lanka on Thursday night but taken off again in Darwin after a judge granted a last-minute temporary injunction.

A second temporary injunction was granted on Friday morning, keeping two-year-old Tharnicca in Australia until Wednesday 4 September.

It was not immediately clear what the ruling meant for the rest of the family.

The Biloela family facing deportation to Sri Lanka.
The Biloela family facing deportation to Sri Lanka..
Supplied

But Tamil Refugee Council spokesman Aran Mylvaganam said supporters have tried everything to stop the family being sent to Sri Lanka.

"As a member of the Tamil community, we're all heartbroken by how this family has been treated by our government," he told reporters in Melbourne.

Mr Mylvaganam said Priya, her husband Nadesalingam and their children Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2, would be in danger if they were returned to Sri Lanka.

"Sri Lanka is a very dangerous place for Tamils," he said.

Priya, her husband Nadesalingam and their two Australian-born daughters are now facing deportation.
Priya, her husband Nadesalingam and their two Australian-born daughters are now facing deportation.
Supplied

Mr Mylvaganam said the deportation would also impact the more than 6000 Tamils on bridging visas living in the community.

"It will be a devastating blow to their chances of staying in this country.

Tamil Refugee Council spokesman Aran Mylvaganam speaks to the media.
Tamil Refugee Council spokesman Aran Mylvaganam speaks to the media.
AAP

"We just hope the Australian government will intervene and not go ahead with the deportation of this family."

A Home Affairs spokesperson said the "family’s claims to engage Australia’s protection obligations have been comprehensively assessed on a number of occasions by the Department of Home Affairs and various merits review bodies".

"The family has consistently been found not to be owed protection."

But Sri Lankan Consul General to Australia Lal Raj Wickrematunga has previously told SBS News it was "safe" for the family to return.

"As far as the Sri Lankan government is concerned, Sri Lanka is safe for Tamil families to return.

Among those calling for the federal government to stop the family's deportation was refugee Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi, whose detention in Thailand captured worldwide attention earlier this year. 

“I hope Scott Morrison and his team can stop the deportation of this family. They came to Australia to get protection here,” Mr al-Araibi said in a video posted to Facebook.

Supporters of a Tamil refugee familyat Darwin International Airport, awaiting the deportation.
Supporters of a Tamil refugee familyat Darwin International Airport, awaiting the deportation.
AAP

“You helped me when I was in Thailand. I feel like this family. I know who they feel about their future and their daughter.

“Please, Scott Morrison, stop this happening.”

Mr al-Araibi became an Australian citizen in March after Mr Morrison and other Australian officials successfully sought his release from a Thai prison, where he was being detained on an Interpol red notice issued by Bahrain.

The hashtag #HometoBilo, a reference to the regional Queensland town of Biloela where the Tamil family had settled for four years before being arrested by immigration officers in March 2018, was the top trending topic on Twitter on Friday morning.

Snap rallies were held in Sydney and Melbourne on Friday morning to protest the deportation.

Supporters have previously told SBS News they feared Priya, Nadesalingam and their two children would be in danger if sent back to Sri Lanka.

The Department of Immigration had previously stated the family's case had been assessed over many years.

'Compassionate grounds'

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) has called on Immigration Minister David Coleman to consider whether there are grounds to personally intervene and stop the deportation of the Tamil couple and their two Australian-born children to Sri Lanka.

FECCA Chairperson Ms Mary Patetsos wants the government to consider whether their case warrants intervention on compassionate grounds.

"This is a family that fled civil war and persecution and have made Australia their home - they have been welcomed with open arms by their regional Queensland community and are productive, active members of that community," she said.

"As Australians, we ask that Minister Coleman fully consider the option to exercise discretion in this case and whether it warrants intervention on compassionate grounds."

Two women arrested

Two women are expected to be charged after they broke through a fence at Melbourne airport in support of the family.

The women went to the airport along with about 60 other supporters on Thursday night.

Australian Federal Police arrested the pair for breaching a perimeter fence and accessing a security-controlled part of the airport.

"Both women were arrested and removed from the area at approximately 10pm on Thursday. They will be issued with a summons to appear in court at a future date," the AFP said in a statement on Friday.

Additional reporting: Evan Young, Gloria Kalache.

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