Refugee advocates and Greens senator Sarah Hanson Young have called on the new Anthony Albanese government to go further and approve permanent visas for the Murugappan family who have been allowed to return to Biloela next month.
Nades, Priya and their daughters, Kopika and Tharunicaa are due to arrive in the Queensland town of Biloela by early June.
Supporters of the Tamil asylum seeker family – who were detained in Australia’s immigration detention system for four years – are preparing for their return.
Family friend Angela Fredericks said arrangements are being made for accommodation, furniture and school for the children.
Supporters in central Queensland town of Biloela are also preparing to celebrate Tharnicca’s fifth birthday.
“We’ve got little Tharunicaa’s fifth birthday on the 12 June, and that will be her first birthday not in detention in her whole life,” she told SBS News.
“We’ve got accommodation sorted, we’re looking at the kids school enrolment we’ve got offers for furniture – so everything is falling into place.”
Priya said she is thankful for the community support.
“I had the support of Nades and we had the support of the people of Bilo. But many others don’t have that support. So I want to help,” she said in a statement released by the Home to Bilo group.
“My prayer is that this government will make a change to the lives of every single refugee who comes here. All refugees are survivors. They need hope.”
PM says he was compelled to act
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said during his first week in office, he and his government decided to deliver on the election commitment to allow the family to return to Biloela.
“We’re a generous country, and the way I was brought up, you don’t treat people like that,” he said on Saturday.
“We’re better than that, we’ve intervened.”
Priya and Nadesalingam Murugappan, who arrived in Australia by boat, have attempted to seek asylum since being removed from their home in regional Queensland by Border Force officers in 2018 after their temporary visa expired.
A strong community campaign has been running in Biloela urging the release of the family from the accumulated four years of detention in Australia’s immigration system.
Those years have included detention on Christmas Island, with the last year spent in community detention in Perth.
The previous Coalition government consistently rejected calls for the Immigration Minister to use his discretionary powers to allow the family’s release.
The Department of Home Affairs had said it was deemed no protection was necessary after the family’s case was “comprehensively assessed, over many years, by the department, various tribunals, and courts”.
The CEO of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Kon Karapanagiotidis, said it is hoped that permanent protection can be offered to the Murugappan family.
“Let’s hope that the govermnent is proactive. The family has been in limbo long enough and waited long enough, so let’s hope that happens next.”
Greens senator Sarah Hanson Young said the family must be able to rebuild their lives “for good”.
“Finally the Biloela family can return home! But the new Government needs to grant the family permanent visas, not temporary ones if they are to undo all the cruelty and suffering that Mr Morrison and Mr Dutton put them through,” she said in a message posted on Twitter.
Refugee advocate John Jegaosthy said members of the Tamil community in Australia rejoiced at the news the family have received bridging visas.
“For the Tamil community it was such a joy, and even those who are still without a visa rejoiced with them,” he said.
He said it would not be safe for the Murugappans to be returned to Sri Lanka where there is continued persecution of the Tamil ethnic minority.
“If they are asked to go back after 10 years [since they fled] they will be in harm’s way. At the entrance to immigration they will be taken in and incarcerated.”