Students occupy immigration office for Sri Lankan asylum seeker family


Candlelight vigils and protests have been held across the country for a Sri Lankan asylum seeker family facing deportation.

A group of students have staged a sit-in at a Department of Home Affairs office in Melbourne to protest the deportation of a Sri Lankan asylum seeker family. 

Border Force officials removed Tamils Nadesalingam, Priya and their two Australian-born daughters from Biloela, Queensland last week and put them in a Melbourne detention centre. Their visa had expired by a single day.

One of the protesters in Melbourne.
One of the protesters in Melbourne.

The family was then taken to Perth and placed on a flight to Sri Lanka before being pulled from the plane minutes before they were due to be deported. They were given a temporary legal reprieve from deportation.

Protests for the family were also held in Sydney on Friday to allow the family to return to Queensland. 

The Sydney protest.
The Sydney protest.

Meanwhile, more than 85,000 people have signed a petition to return the family to Biloela.

Biloela resident Angela Fredericks started the petition and attended a candlelight vigil in the town on Wednesday. 

"We've got an amazing town, an amazing group of people," she told the crowd.

"This is the start of something much bigger. The fight is not over."

It's understood the couple came to Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013, following Sri Lanka's civil war.

They settled in Biloela on a bridging visa, which has since expired.

A Department of Home Affairs spokesman said the family's case had been assessed over many years.

"They have consistently been found not to meet Australia's protection obligations," he said.

Additional reporting: AAP

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