Immigration

'Let them stay': Melbourne rally held for Tamil family facing deportation

Supporters of a Tamil asylum seeker family rally to stop their eminent deportation at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Sunday, August 25, 2019. Source: AAP

Melburnians have gathered in the heart of the city, calling on Australia's federal immigration minister to save a Tamil asylum seeker family from deportation.

Protesters in Melbourne chanting "Let them stay" have called on the government to save a Tamil asylum seeker family from deportation.

Group leaders fronted the demonstration to speak about how the family from Biloela, in central Queensland, is suffering while in detention and could be at risk of facing deportation at any moment.

Tamil asylum seekers Nadesalingnam, wife Priya, and their Australian-born daughters Dharuniga and Kopiga.
Tamil asylum seekers Nadesalingnam, wife Priya, and their Australian-born daughters Dharuniga and Kopiga.
Supplied

Asylum seekers Priya and Nadesalingam and their two Australian-born daughters have been held in a Melbourne detention centre since March 2018, after being taken from their home in Biloela during a pre-dawn raid.

"We fear for their lives if they are sent back," Tamil Refugee Council spokesperson Niro Kandasamy told AAP.

"As a Tamil, I'm outraged to see how members of our community are being treated by our government. I'm even more outraged by how they would be treated by their home town," she said.

 

Last week the family received the news that their last-ditch efforts to stay in the country were rejected, with supporters calling on the federal minister for immigration to reconsider and let them stay.

Refugee advocates argue the family's requests to appeal the decision have not even made it to the minister's desk.

Priya and Nadesalingam came to Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013 following Sri Lanka's civil war. They lived in Biloela for four years on a temporary bridging visa, which ran out in March 2018.

The High Court denied their final bid to stay in May 2018.

Despite the hardship, those that know the family say they haven't given up hope of returning to their hometown of Biloela, says Refugee Action Collective spokesperson, Lucy Honan.

"They're terrified. But they're making phone calls every hour to report that they're safe. And obviously, that they're holding out hope they will be allowed to stay," she said.

Supporters of a Tamil asylum seeker family rally to stop their eminent deportation at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Sunday, August 25, 2019.
Supporters of a Tamil asylum seeker family rally to stop their eminent deportation at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Sunday, August 25, 2019.
AAP

Supporters also fear the family would be in danger if sent back to Sri Lanka. "The United Nations Special repertoire for torture made a plea to states not to send Tamil's back to Sri Lanka in the last year." Ms Honan said.

New Zealand Journalist Rebekah Holt has met with the family and knows them well. She also has concerns for their wellbeing, in particular the health of the Mother Priya, who suffers from diabetes.

"She's not given appropriate food to manage this [diabetes], so there's health concerns on top of the obviously high mental health strain of what's going on at the moment," Ms Holt said.

The matter, in its significance should be given attention from the prime minister of Australia, Ms Holt argues.

The family has received strong support from Australians. They've accrued over 200,000 signatures in a petition to keep them from deportation, and protesters have plans to hold a silent vigil outside of the minister's office in Melbourne.

AAP has contacted the Department of Immigration for comment.

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