A Tamil asylum seeker family being deported from Australia has won a last-minute reprieve after a Melbourne judge granted an eleventh-hour injunction to block the move.
On Thursday, Priya, her husband Nadesalingam and their two Australian-born daughters boarded a plane that left Melbourne destined for Sri Lanka.
However, lawyers acting for the family’s supporters say they have won an interim injunction in the Melbourne Federal Circuit Court.
It’s understood the plane is due to land in Darwin about 2am.
The orders made by Judge Heather Riley state that the Minister for Immigration be restrained from removing the applicant from the Commonwealth of Australia.
A hearing is listed for 10am on 30 August at the Federal Circuit Court.
The family had been held in a Melbourne detention centre since March 2018, after being taken from their home in Biloela, in Queensland, during a pre-dawn raid.
Earlier Thursday, SBS News saw two “Notices of Intention to Remove from Australia” documents for Priya, Nadesalingam and their “dependent children”.
“[You] will be removed from Australia on Thursday 29 August 2019 to Colombo, Sri Lanka,” the documents state.
“You will be escorted on your departing flight.”
Supporter Angela Fredericks told SBS News the family was removed from the Melbourne detention centre and “put in vans and taken to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport”.
Within the hour, dozens of supporters gathered at the airport demanding they be allowed to stay.
SBS News has contacted the Department of Home Affairs for an update on the family but is yet to receive a reply.
Last week, the government blocked an application for an assessment of the dangers that toddler Tharunicaa may face if she is sent to Sri Lanka.
That move was effectively the family’s last avenue to staying in Australia.
Priya and Nadesalingam came to Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013, following Sri Lanka’s civil war. They settled in Biloela for four years on a temporary bridging visa, which ran out in March 2018.
The High Court denied their bid to stay in May.
The family claims they would face persecution in Sri Lanka because of past family links to the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Last week, the Department of Home Affairs told SBS News “this family’s case has been assessed, over many years, by the department and various merits review bodies. These decisions have also been the subject of judicial review applications in the courts”.
Sri Lankan Consul General to Australia Lal Raj Wickrematunga has previously told SBS News it was “safe” for the family to return.
“As far as the Sri Lankan government is concerned, Sri Lanka is safe for Tamil families to return.
“The government has made an appeal for all those who’ve left Sri Lanka and sought refugee status elsewhere to come back.”
Additional reporting: AAP