Immigration

Tamil family from Biloela lose legal challenge to avoid being deported

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The Tamil family has been fighting to avoid being returned to Sri Lanka, saying they would face persecution.

A Tamil asylum seeker family taken into custody a year ago during a dawn raid on their Queensland home will likely be deported after the High Court denied their final bid to stay in the country. 

Nadesalingam, Priya and their two daughters have been in immigration detention in Victoria since March last year and had launched a case to avoid deportation back to Sri Lanka, where they claim they'll face persecution.

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.
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In January, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton refused to grant the family a visa, despite the pleas of the tight-knit Queensland town of Biloela, where the family had settled.

The High Court of Australia on Tuesday refused Priya and Nadesalingam and their Australian-born daughters, Kopika and Tharunicaa, special leave to appeal last year's Federal Court ruling that they could not stay in the country.

Husband and wife Nadesalingam and Priya have lived in Australia since 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Husband and wife Nadesalingam and Priya have lived in Australia since 2012 and 2013 respectively.
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The couple came to Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013 following Sri Lanka's civil war, but have been in detention in Melbourne since March 2018 after their bridging visa expired. 

Supporters of the family say they would face persecution in their native 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.

On Tuesday, Sri Lankan Consul General to Australia Lal Raj Wickrematunga 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.

"The government has made an appeal for all those who’ve left Sri Lanka and sought refugee status elsewhere to come back."

And spokesperson for Australian Border Force said the case had been thoroughly assessed.

"This family's case has been assessed, over many years, by the Department, various tribunals and courts … non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa and who have exhausted all outstanding avenues to remain in Australia are expected to depart," the spokesperson said.

Supporters of the Tamily asylum seeker family.
Supporters of the Tamily asylum seeker family.
SBS

Concerns for the family's children, who remain in detention in Melbourne, were raised earlier this month by the Victorian children's commissioner Liana Buchanan.

A medical report and photos obtained by the Ms Buchanna, detailed deterioration in health, particularly the dental health, of the girls.

Blackened front teeth, understood to belong to two-year-old Tharnicaa, were highlighted in the report. 

"When I see that photo I am incredibly distressed. I think everybody would be. And the idea that in a country like Australia, a well-resourced country and we think of ourselves as fairly civilised," Ms Buchanan told SBS News earlier this month. 

Advocates say medical treatment has been delayed and inconsistently provided to Tharnicaa and her family.
Advocates say medical treatment has been delayed and inconsistently provided to Tharnicaa and her family.
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The August Report also noted both sisters have developed behavioural issues as a result of the environment, deemed "not appropriate" for young children.

In particular, the report noted the lack of social interaction with other children and restrictions on freedom of movement.

"There is no playgroup or early childhood learning in place," the report states.

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