Remaining members of Biloela Tamil family arrive in Perth ahead of community detention ‘placement’

Nades and Kopika before boarding a plane bound for Perth on Tuesday. Source: Supplied/HometoBilo

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has announced the Murugappan family will reside in Perth through a community detention placement, but says the decision “does not create a pathway to a visa”.

The father and eldest daughter from a Tamil asylum seeker family from Biloela have touched down in Perth, where they are set to live in community detention following almost two years of detention on Christmas Island.

Nades and Kopika Murugappan landed in Perth on Tuesday night to join the other two members of the family, mother Priya and youngest daughter Tharnicca, who have been in hospital since last week after the four-year-old was medically evacuated for treatment for pneumonia and sepsis.

It comes after Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Tuesday morning said the Murugappans could reside in suburban Perth through a community detention “placement” close to schools and support services while Tharnicaa continued to receive treatment.

But he said the decision to release the family from Christmas Island would “not create a pathway to a visa”.

Despite their Christmas Island reprieve, the Biloela Tamil family’s future remains uncertain

“Today’s decision releases the family from held detention and facilitates ongoing treatment, while they pursue ongoing litigation before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Federal Court and High Court,” Mr Hawke said in a statement.

“As required by court orders, I will consider at a future date whether to lift the statutory bar presently preventing members of the family from reapplying for temporary protection, for which they have previously been

The family has been in immigration detention for three years amidst a protracted legal battle over their right to remain in Australia, having been taken from their home in Queensland’s Biloela in 2018.

Renewed attention has been placed on their situation after Tharnicaa’s medical evacuation last week.

Priya and Tharnicaa had been separated from Kopika and Nades, who remained in detention on the Christmas Island until Tuesday night.

‘This family’s home is in Biloela’

Labor MPs and supporters of the family welcomed Tuesday’s news that the family would be brought off Christmas Island, while calling for them to be able to return to Biloela.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Perth was a long way from the small town “where their friends and neighbours have campaigned for so many years for their freedom”.

“Biloela is a community of 6000. Everyone knows each other and looks after each other,” she said in a statement.

“I look forward to the day when the family can come home to Bilo.”

Family friend and Home to Bilo spokesperson Angela Fredericks said supporters hoped and assumed that placing the family in community detention was only a temporary step.

“Community detention is no guarantee of safety and peace for this family,” she said in a statement.

“Nades is keen to get back to work in Biloela to support his young family, which he cannot do while the family is forced into community detention. Priya wants to enrol Kopika at Biloela State School to continue her education. And we promised little Tharni a big birthday party when she got home.

“Australia knows this family’s home is in Biloela.”

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre called for the Immigration Minister to grant the family a permanent visa “as he has the power to do”.

The centre said the family would remain in limbo with no work rights while in community detention.

“They think this move will take pressure [and] public attention off this, it will only intensify it,” the ASRC said on Twitter.