It took a change of government to allow the family of Tamil asylum seekers – wife Priya, husband, Nades, and their Australian-born daughters Kopika, 6, and Tharnicaa, 4 to finally feel at home in Australia. They were held in detention for more than four years including the traumatic medical evacuation from Christmas Island when Tharnicca developed boold infection.
They will be finally beginning their journey home the Central Queensland town of Biloela.
The family has been in Western Australia for more than 12 months – not knowing what their fate would be while taking care of their Australian born daughters.
While Alex Hawke was the minister of Immigration in Scott Morrison’s cabinet, the family’s anxiety remained unabated.
But it all came to a happy ending when the Coalition lost the election on May 21, paving the way for the family being allowed to stay in Australia permanently.
The timing of their return home to Biloela could not be sweeter. They will reach on Friday and Tharnicca, who was just nine months old when the family first entered detention, will celebrate her fifth birthday at home in Biloela on Sunday.
The town will be celebrating its Flourish multicultural festival on Saturday. As the town has been fighting for the family, it is expected the celebrations will simply double up throwing a warm welcome mat for them.
Prime minister Anthony Albanese said he was proud the family was returning home.
“We grabbed this family in the middle of the night, took them down to Melbourne, then took them to Christmas Island, then they’ve ended up in Perth,” Prime Minister Albanese said.
The family has been through a lot, particularly the litigation in courts with the minister flexing muscle to deport them.
Were it not for a last minute Federal Court intervention on behalf of the little Tharnicca, leading literally to their removal from a deportation flight at the middle of the night, they would be in Sri Lanka today.
It was on technical grounds the judge granted an injunction to stop the minister from deporting them. The family’s various applications for grant of Australian permanent visa had been unsuccessful.
But the lawyers thought of a loophole at the last minute when the family was being deported. An application for an injunction to stop the deportation was made on behalf of the younger daughter Tharnicca. She had not been party to any earlier applications which had rejected. The lawyers pleaded that her rights as an Australian born would be violated, if she was not accorded an opportunity to be heard before being removed.
The stay of deportation did not mean end of legal challenges for the family. It took a 4 years long litigation, nearly 600,000 signatures on the petition Home to Bilo (Change.org) by Angela Frederick and a change of government in Canberra, to get the family to get the bridging visas and stay in Australia to resolve their permanent immigration status.
After the change of government post May 21, the interim home affairs minister, Jim Chalmers, exercised his power under section 195A of the Migration Act to allow the family to go back to Biloela.
“The effect of my intervention enables the family to return to Biloela, where they can reside lawfully in the community on bridging visas while they work towards the resolution of their immigration status, in accordance with Australian law,” Jim Chalmers said about his decision and family’s change of fate under the Albanese government.