Australia's most famous asylum seekers from Sri Lanka allowed to reunite

Tuesday, 15 June 2021 - 19:19

The father and daughter of the Tamil family at the centre of a national outcry over their detention on Christmas Island have landed in Perth to be reunited with the rest of their family.

Kopika and Nades Murugappan were filmed as they disembarked a small plane which landed in Perth just before 7pm.

Tharnicaa is the youngest member of the family and last week was flown from Christmas Island to Perth for medical treatment.
She was diagnosed with sepsis after almost two weeks of feeling unwell, but campaigners say she developed pneumonia.

Her family says that her treatment was delayed while on the island.

Dad Kopika and eldest daughter Nades have been staying in Christmas Island detention, apart from mum Priya and younger daughter Tharnicaa for nine long days after the latter pair were flown to Perth so Tharnicaa could receive emergency medical care.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said the family of four will be permitted to live in Perth in a community detention placement while Tharnicaa continues to be treated in the city's children's hospital.

Mr Hawke said details of the Tamil Sri Lankan family's case is still under investigation and that the government does not want to see the people-smuggling trade resume.

"They have been found at several junctures by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, by the Federal Court, the Circuit Court, and the full Federal Court in the High Court not to be owed protection by Australia," he said.

"Their immigration status has not changed and therefore on balance I have made a decision, a compassionate decision to keep the family in the Australian community while they take further matters up with the government."

The family will now be allowed to live together in Perth while they pursue legal action related to their immigration status.

Four-year-old Tharnicaa Murugappan was evacuated to a Perth hospital last week after contracting a blood infection.

Her medical condition reignited public concern for the family's welfare.

Where was the family before
Priya and Nades Murugappan and their two daughters Tharnicaa and Kopika have been living in immigration detention on Christmas Island since 2019, after they were removed from their home in Biloela by Border Force officers in 2018.

Previously, they had been held in a detention compound on Christmas Island - an Australian external territory - where they had been monitored daily by security guards.

Advocates for the family welcomed their release from offshore detention, but said the family ought to be granted immediate protection and returned to their Queensland home.

"We hope and assume that [community detention] is only a temporary step. Community detention is no guarantee of safety and peace for this family," said the HometoBilo campaign.

Opposition lawmakers as well as a few government backbench MPs have also called for the family to be allowed to returned to Biloela - citing the local community's support for the family.

In recent days, protests were held in Sydney, Melbourne and other Australian cities, condemning the government's treatment of the family.

But on Tuesday Mr Hawke emphasised Australia's stringent asylum rules saying that the arrangement "releases the family from held detention" but "importantly...does not create a pathway to a visa."

"If they are not found to have matters where we owe them protection or they're not refugees, we will ask them to leave for Sri Lanka."

In 2018, the Murugappan family were removed from their home in the town of Biloela when their visa claim was rejected.

The Murugappans are a family of four: mother Priya, father Nades, Kopi, and her three-year-old sister Tharnicaa.

They are Australia's most famous asylum seekers, but they're barely known by their family name.

Instead they're "the Biloela family" - named after the small town where they lived for four years..

Nades and Priya arrived in Australia on separate journeys in 2012 and 2013 and lodged claims for asylum. The government granted them temporary protection visas.

Their forced removal from Biloela sparked outcry from local residents, who launched a national protest campaign and helped fund a legal battle.