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‘It’s mental torture’: Biloela Tamil family stuck in agonising wait about their future

Biloela protest
Community support: Dozens of Biloela residents flew to Melbourne on May 3 last year to stand in solidarity with the Tamil asylum seeker family taken from the community that was their home.

THE Tamil asylum-seeker family forced into a legal battle to stay in Australia could be held in detention on Christmas Island for several months.

The Federal Court has ruled their case should go to a full hearing, requiring a difficult wait until a court date is set. 

Parents Priya and Nadesalingam have spoken of the difficult conditions on Christmas Island – staying in quarters that are not safe for them and their Australian-born daughters Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2.

“This is not a place where children should be; the detention centre has been locked for a very long time and it’s been open for us,” Priya told Sky News.

“There’s no proper safety here. Children feel lonely, the room is not safe. 

“We don’t have a bathroom in the unit. We don’t have proper access to a toilet.

“We feel like they’re monitoring us every single minute; it’s mental torture.”

The family has been held on Christmas Island since the end of August, when its plane was stopped en route to Sri Lanka, after a last-minute court injunction to prevent deportation.

On September 19, Federal Court Justice Mordy Bromberg said the family had a legal case that needed to be decided at a full hearing.

The case rests on two-year-old daughter Tharunicaa and her right to apply for a protection visa.

Despite being born in Australia, Tharunicaa would normally have no right to apply for a visa because she is born to asylum seekers who travelled to Australia by boat.

But her Melbourne barrister Angel Aleksov has argued that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, in his former role as immigration minister, had allowed children like her to get a visa in a determination in July 2017. 

Mr Aleksov’s argument is that this meant Tharunicaa’s application was valid and she could not be deported.

Mr Aleksov told the court it should weigh heavily in favour of proceeding to a full hearing because it was a case of “life and death”.

Justice Bromberg agreed, saying “the inconvenience or injury” to Tharunicaa if she was deported greatly outweighed any inconvenience to the government.

A date has not been set for their case to be heard.

The parents came to Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013 following Sri Lanka’s bitter civil war, and established themselves in the central Queensland town of Biloela. 

Priya and Nadesalingam claim they face persecution in Sri Lanka due to links to the Tamil Tigers – a group that fought for liberation during the war.

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