In accord to prevent the deportation of a young family of asylum seekers, residents of a small town in central Queensland have launched a final desperate bid. Peter Dutton (Home Affairs Minister) has again ruled out any chance the family will stay in Australia.
Seven hours north of Brisbane this closely-knit community of Biloela, boasts a population of fewer than 6,000 people. The Tamil family of four members had lived there for years but almost a year ago the family was placed in a Melbourne detention centre.
To free Nadesalingnam, wife Priya, and their Australian-born daughters Tharunicaa and Kopiga, the community has been fighting since then.
Having fled from the war in Sri Lanka, Nades and Priya arrived in Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013. The couple met in Queensland after having their claims processed on Christmas Island. Then they married and settled in Biloela.
But the family was removed from its home one day after Priya’s bridging visa expired last March and sent 1,800 kilometres away to a Melbourne detention centre.
The government says that both came to the country illegally, a decision upheld by the Federal Court in June as it rejected an appeal by the family to avoid deportation. The family can be deported at any time from 1st February.
Angela Fredericks (Biloela resident) has been making efforts to free the family. She says the community fears with all legal avenues exhausted that the family can faces persecution if forced to return to Sri Lanka.
“They’re our friends, they’re our neighbours. And it’s Australian to fight for your mate. This case is an excellent example of migrants that do a city-to-rural migration, and a real success case. So if anything, use this family as an example of what we want in our migrants in Australia.”
Friend Bronwyn Dendle believes the case defies logic. “We won’t stop really. We’ll just keep going, raising awareness, and trying to encourage Nades and Priya and the girls just to hang in there (stay strong) and stay hopeful. They became a part of the community from when they arrived and made every effort to act like Australian citizens. Even for me to explain to my little kids, they keep saying ‘why is Kopiga still in jail?’ And I have to say ‘I can’t answer that’. The only thing I can think of is their parents were born in the wrong country.”
In the coming weeks, a number of rallies are being planned across the eastern states in the hope the Tamil family are freed. Two will be held outside the electorate offices of Home Affairs Minister (Peter Dutton) and Immigration Minister (David Coleman).
“ The family has gone through multiple court processes. At every single turn they’ve been found not to be refugees. They were told before they had children that they were not going to settle ever in Australia, and they resisted that at every turn.”
And opportunity was offered to Nades, with a job at the local abattoir while also volunteering around the town with Priya.
Many supporters like cattle farmer Scott Jensen says that work ethic, makes them worthy Australians. “Anyone that is prepared to work hard, pay taxes, doesn’t matter where they come from, if they’re prepared to do that I mean I feel that they should be allowed to stay in the country. I mean I’d hate to think what will happen to them when they go back home. They may never be heard of again.”
Many asylum seekers who arrived in the country by boat currently remain in Australian-run detention centres.