Tamil family’s court case adjourned in the ‘interests of justice’

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A court decision on whether a Tamil family will be deported from Australia has been delayed until Friday.

The Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne has delayed the decision in the “interests of justice,” with an interim injunction grande to restrain the family’s removal from the country.

Priya and Nades and their two Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharunicaa are in detention on Christmas Island while the matter is decided in court.

The court will decide on an application on behalf of the youngest child for Australia’s protection, put in train after an injunction stopped the government from deporting the family last Thursday.

A succession of courts, including the High Court, has found the parents and the eldest child are not refugees and do not qualify for Australia’s protection.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison stuck by earlier comments and said the decision to refuse the family’s application for asylum was in “the national interest”. 

“Border protection, national security, is not about chasing Twitter public sentiment or anyone else. It’s about doing the right thing,” he said.

I understand absolutely the motivation and the compassion that Australians have expressed in relation to this case … But I also know from bitter experience that if you make the wrong calls on these issues, then you invite tragedy and you invite chaos.”

The Prime Minister had previously encouraged the family to go back to Sri Lanka, and then apply for fresh Australian visas.

“If Priya and Nades and Kopika and Thraunicaa want to then come to Australia, like 1500 who have already been sent back before them, well then they can seek to do that,” he told 3AW Radio.

Asked if he would expedite the process, Mr Morrison said: “I’d apply the same rules that I apply to everyone else.”

“This is the whole point, to have a fair immigration system, you don’t create special cases just because Twitter says so.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has flown to Biloela, in central Queensland, where the family lived until they were removed in a pre-dawn raid last year.

Mr Albanese is calling on the immigration minister to exercise discretion and let them stay.

“There is a case of a four-year-old and a two-year-old who belong here in Australia,” he told the Seven Network.

“Their parents are making a contribution and they are in regional Queensland, supported by their local community.”


The Biloela family and their supporters hope they will be allowed to stay in Australia permanently.


Senior minister Mathias Cormann said the Tamil family was in the same position as 1500 people sent back to Sri Lanka.

Senator Cormann said their pleas for protection had been comprehensively assessed by the government and the courts.

“At every step on the way, those assessments have confirmed they do not qualify to come to Australia as asylum seekers,” he told the ABC.

“This is about making sure we don’t send a signal to people smugglers who are out there waiting to see a weakening in the resolve of the Australian government in protecting our borders.

“We have to apply the law of the land and we have to make sure that we focus on the broader national interest.”

Last-minute injunction

The family had been in long-term immigration detention in Melbourne until Thursday night, when they were put on a plane for deportation to Sri Lanka.

A judge issued a last-minute injunction and the family was taken off the plane when it landed in Darwin, being sent to Christmas Island thereafter.

The injunction was made until 4pm on Wednesday.

The hearing will test Tharunicaa’s case for protection, including whether her circumstances should have been assessed by the home affairs minister.

Whatever the outcome of the court action, the family’s lawyer says their fate will be decided by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

“The only way this family is going to stay, even if the court application is successful, is for the minister to intervene because he is the only one that holds that power,” the lawyer Carina Ford said outside court on Monday.

Mr Dutton believes Priya and Nadesalingam have unfairly dragged their two young, Australian-born children through drawn-out court appeals in an ill-fated bid to stay in the country.

The daughters removed from their home with their family

The daughters removed from their home with their family

(Tamil Refugee Council)

He said “excessive” appeals had kept them here and now they were complaining about having to leave the life they established in the Queensland town of Biloela.

“People have the ability to appeal. That’s their legal right,” Mr Dutton told reporters on Tuesday.

“But you can’t appeal, refuse the umpire’s decision and then delay and delay and delay through subsequent appeal processes and then say it is unfair that you have been here so long and therefore you have established those connections to the community.

“It doesn’t cut both ways.”

Nadesalingam and Priya came separately to Australia illegally by boat after the war ended. They met here and had two children before settling in Biloela.

Nadesalingam has said his links to Tamil Tigers insurgents who battled Sri Lanka’s government during the country’s civil war mean he’s in danger of persecution if he goes home.

But Mr Dutton said he travelled back to Sri Lanka on a number of occasions and he had been unable to convince a succession of courts that he would be in danger.

The minister would not say how quickly the family would be deported to Sri Lanka, if they lost the court battle.

Prayer vigils were held at churches in around Australia to support the family on Tuesday night, with another vigil to be held outside the Federal Court in Melbourne ahead of the hearing on Wednesday.

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