Biloela’s Murugappan family has been granted temporary bridging visas to live and work in the Australian community, giving them a temporary reprieve from community detention.
However, the family will not yet be able to travel back to Biloela and must remain in Perth, as only three of them have been granted the visa, while youngest daughter Tharnicaa remains technically subject to community detention.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said on Wednesday afternoon he had used powers of discretion, allowed under the Migration Act, to step in and grant visas to the family of four.
“Yesterday, at the request of the Sri Lankan family formerly resident in Christmas Island, I exercised my power under section 195A of the Migration Act, granting members of the family three-month bridging visas, providing work and study rights,” he said in a statement.
“This decision allows three members of the family to reside in the Perth community on bridging visas while the youngest child’s medical care, and the family’s legal matters, are ongoing. The fourth family member’s visa status is unchanged.”
That fourth member is four-year-old Tharnicaa, whose case for an Australian visa remains in legal limbo.
The family – father Nades, mother Priya, six-year-old daughter Kopika and Tharnicaa – were reunited in Perth last week after Tharnicaa was medically evacuated from Christmas Island.
Under the previous conditions of their community detention, the adults were not allowed to work or study. Now they will be granted those rights while they remain in Australia, as their legal cases and appeals against previous court rulings – which found they were not refugees and therefore ineligible for resettlement – continue.
In a statement, family friend and Home To Bilo campaign organiser Angela Fredericks said the granting of bridging visas was a “huge step”, but questioned why Tharnicaa had not been granted a bridging visa too.
STATEMENT: Today, three members of the Muruguppan family from Biloela were provided bridging visas.
Priya, Nades, and six-year-old Kopika have been issued bridging visas by the Department of Home Affairs, valid until late September 2021. (1/) pic.twitter.com/uFyF7XK0Nv
— HometoBilo (@HometoBilo) June 23, 2021
“This family must stay together, and they need to be back in Biloela as soon as humanly possible,” she said.
Wednesday’s decision does not yet mean they can return to the Queensland town of Biloela. Mr Hawke said they would continue to have access to health, support services and housing “in the Perth community”.
He previously said their community detention stipulations did not allow for them to travel back to Biloela, and that they would have to stay in the Perth area.
New deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, has recently called for the family to be resettled in Australia permanently. It is unclear whether he will use his new position to continue his advocacy for the Murugappans.