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Circling back to the Biloela family

The story of the Biloela family was a major story in the news cycle last month. Let’s circle back on what has happened since, and what we’re expecting to see happen.

Background 

Priya and Nades came to Australia by boat in 2012 and 2013 (they arrived separately). Friends and family say the pair fled Sri Lanka because of the persecution of the Tamil people. When they arrived in Australia, they settled in Biloela, a small town in Queensland. There, they worked and started a family, with daughters Kopika and Tharunicaa born in 2015 and 2017.

In March 2018, Nades and Priya’s bridging visas expired. The family was removed from Biloela, pending deportation to Sri Lanka. At the last minute, their deportation was halted by a court injunction, and the family was eventually moved to Christmas Island, where they remained in detention until recently. 

In June, the youngest daughter, three-year-old Tharunicaa, was medically evacuated from Christmas Island to Perth with untreated pneumonia that led to a blood infection. Tharunicaa eventually recovered. 

What happened next? 

Tharunicaa’s hospitalisation renewed calls for the family to be released from immigration detention, with civilians organising protests, and politicians from both sides of the aisle showing their support for the family.  

In late June, three out of four of the family were granted three-month bridging visas. This meant the family was released from detention in Perth, allowing them to reside in the community. 

These bridging visas technically allow the family to relocate back to Biloela, however, the family would have to leave Tharunicaa in Perth (given she was not provided a bridging visa). According to Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, the family will “continue to have access to healthcare, support services, housing and schooling in the Perth community”.

The bridging visas are set to expire in September, at which time the Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke, will be required to make a further decision on the case. Advocates for the family are lobbying for a full release of the whole family back into the Biloela community.

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