Australia’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has granted 12-month bridging visas to three members of the Sri Lankan Tamil family at the heart of a growing campaign urging the government to allow them to stay permanently in Australia.
The visas apply to parents Nadesalingam and Priya Murugappan, and their eldest daughter Kopika, according to Home to Bilo, a group of friends campaigning for the family’s release.
The family has been in community detention in the western city of Perth since their youngest child, Tharunicaa, was airlifted to the city after suffering a medical emergency at the remote Christmas Island detention centre where they had been held for nearly two years.
Tharunicaa is not covered by the new bridging visa so the entire family will have to remain in the city, thousands of kilometres from their home in Biloela in the eastern state of Queensland. Although born in Australia, Tharunicaa and Kopika do not have the right to Australian citizenship by birth.
“Australian law gives Minister Hawke the power to bring this sorry saga to a close with the stroke of a pen, by issuing the same visa to four-year-old Tharni that she has granted to her mum, dad and sister,” said Biloela resident and family friend, Angela Fredericks. “Just like Kopika, Tharunicaa was born in Queensland and that’s where she and her family belong.”
Nadesalingam and Priya, arrived in Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013 and sought asylum. After getting married, they settled in Biloela where they were detained in an early morning raid by immigration officials in March 2018 after Priya’s visa expired.
Their case has prompted a nationwide outcry in a country notorious for its hardline approach to asylum seekers and refugees.
Supporters recently took out full-page advertisements in newspapers and on billboards to highlight the family’s plight in a Crowdfunded campaign.
The United Nations requested that Australia allow the family to stay two years ago.