A Tamil family who have been fighting for years to remain in Australia have been offered three-month bridging visas in a surprise development.
The offer was made on Thursday by lawyers acting for the Commonwealth as the Muruguppan family faced a Federal Circuit Court hearing to challenge a decision denying another bridging visa application by parents Nades and Priya, and eldest daughter Kopik.
Lawyers told Judge Heather Riley that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke had agreed in principle to provide new bridging visas to all three.
Their existing visas, which were issued last June, were to expire next Wednesday. The new visas will expire on December 23.
Without new visas, the family faced being sent back to immigration detention or community detention, or being removed from Australia.
Thursday’s circuit court bid came after the High Court last month refused to hear an appeal on behalf of the Murugappan family’s youngest member, four-year-old Tharnicaa, who was born in Australia along with her older sister.
The family hopes to return to their home in the small country town of Biloela in Queensland.
They have been living in Perth after being released from years of detention – the last stint on Christmas Island – after Tharnicaa was medically evacuated from the island earlier this year with a blood infection that left her gravely ill.
Family friend Simone Cameron, of the Home to Bilo group that has supported their fight to remain in Australia, was relieved at the temporary reprieve.
“We welcome the surprise decision from Minister Hawke to grant new three-month bridging visas,” she said.
“But today’s outcome means the family’s situation has largely unchanged. They are still essentially trapped in Perth, in community detention along with little Tharni.”