The Sri Lankan ‘Biloela’ family has been granted a permanent Australian visa after a protracted community battle against immigration officials.
The Nadesalingam family received the news Friday afternoon at their home in Queensland by the Home Office after a four-year immigration battle.
Priya Nadaraja, Nades Murugappan and their daughters Kopika, 7, and Tharnicaa, 4, will now call Australia their permanent home after years at the center of a debate over Australian immigration policy.
It comes after a personal intervention in their case by immigration secretary Andrew Giles.
Priya Nadaraja, Nades Murugappan and their daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa (pictured) will forever call Australia their home with permanent visas for the four
Priya thanked Mr Giles for granting the permanent visas to her family.
“Finally we feel peace,” she said in a statement.
“Now I know my daughters will grow up safely in Australia. Now my husband and I can live without fear.
“This is a very happy day for our family and for all the people of Biloela and Australia who have supported us.”
The family was evicted from their central Queensland town of Biloela in 2018 after their bridging visa expired, sparking a community-led campaign to keep the Tamil family in Australia.
The family then spent four years in immigration detention.
The Labor government granted them new bridging visas in June, allowing the family to return to their regional hometown.
Priya (left) and Nades (right) said their families were finally at peace and thanked the immigration minister and Australians.
The ‘Biloela’ family (pictured) spent four years in immigration detention after their visas expired while living in the small Queensland town of Biloela.
Mr Giles said he personally intervened in the Nadesalingam family’s case.
“My intervention provides the family with visas that allow them to stay permanently in Australia.”
“This decision follows careful consideration of the complex and specific circumstances of the Nadesalingam family,” he said.
“My best wishes to the Nadesalingam family.”
But the minister said the government’s stance on illegal boats would not change.
“We will continue to intercept any unauthorized vessel attempting to reach Australia and return those on board safely to their point of departure or country of origin or take them to a regional processing country,” he added.
“I don’t want people dying in a boat on a trip if there’s no chance to settle in Australia.
“We are not considering changing this policy.”
During a visit by the Ministry of Interior on Friday, the Sri Lankan ‘Biloela’ family was informed that they had been granted a permanent visa.
An organization at the center of the struggle announced early Friday night that the family had been granted permanent Australian visas.
Today at 2.30pm, the Nadesalingam family, affectionately known as the ‘Biloela family’, was visited by the Home Affairs team at their home in Biloela and received the news that they have been granted a permanent visa,’ the ‘Home to Bilo ‘ group posted on social media.
Biloela, a family friend and Angela Fredericks, Home to Bilo campaigner, told the ABC they were with the Nadesalingam family when Home Affairs officials came to visit.
“We knew they were coming, but had no idea why. So when they said the words ‘permanently’ there was instant tears and such excitement and cheers,” she said.
“They gave us the news that the minister decided to intervene and use his powers to grant permanent visas to all four family members.”
Shadow Home Secretary Karen Andrews said allowing permanent residence in Australia “undermines” current asylum seekers’ policies.
‘Actions have consequences and this sets a high-profile precedent. It undermines the policy that if you come here illegally you will never settle in Australia,” she said.
“Together with Labor’s policy of abolishing temporary protection visas, this gives people smugglers a product to sell to desperate families and people.”
Online public reaction has exploded as many campaigners have thanked them for their efforts to raise awareness of the family struggle.
‘Finally. How can we ever make up for the trauma they’ve been through? Those poor young Australians have seen the worst of our country. What a great effort by the local community,” one Australian wrote on Twitter.
“Good news for this one family. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of other people like her are still suffering,” refugee lawyer Shane Bazzi wrote.
Nadesalingam Murugappan arrived in Australia in 2012 on a people-smuggling boat, fleeing persecution as a Tamil in Sri Lanka.
Kokilapathmapriya ‘Priya’ Nadaraja fled Sri Lanka in 2001, applied for asylum in Australia in 2013 and met Nadesalingam.
In the years that followed, the couple moved to Biloela, where they married and settled.
In March 2018, Australian Border Force officials, police and private security guards removed the family from their home when Priya’s visa expired.
The family was transferred between different detention centers, Melbourne and Christmas Island, and was given a deportation order.
Their home community and social advocacy groups rallied in support of the family – with a petition with nearly 200,000 signatures calling on then Home Secretary Peter Dutton to return the family to Biloela.
Priya’s visa appeals put the family’s deportation on hold, but multiple appeals left the department finding that the family’s case fell short of the country’s protection obligations.
After the Supreme Court rejected the Tamil family’s latest appeal to stay, they were kicked out of the country on a plane until it was stopped by lawyers who issued a last-minute injunction.
The warrant was issued because Nades and Priya’s daughter, Tharnicaa, had not yet been assessed for a protection visa, and the family was returned to Christmas Island.
Last year, Tharnicaa was evacuated from the island for medical treatment and the rest of the family was granted transitional visas, although no such visa was granted for Tharnicaa.
The family remained in community detention in Perth until the Labor government granted the family further bridging visas and allowed a return to Biloela in June this year.
Family and friends in Biloela celebrated the decision on Friday night, with many local residents involved in the family’s struggle to stay in the country.