The Federal Circuit Court has rejected a Tamil asylum seeker family’s appeal against deportation, a month after residents from their rural Queensland town pleaded for government intervention.
Nades, Priya and their two young daughters were removed from their home in Biloela in March and flown to Melbourne’s Broadmeadows detention centre.
Biloela locals have been lobbying against their deportation back to Sri Lanka, and last month two Biloela residents used the ABC’s Q&A program to press Liberal Senator Jim Molan to ask Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to intervene.
The parents arrived in Australia separately by boat in 2012 and 2013 and had been living and working in Biloela for around three years.
Previous appeals against deportation by family members through the refugee tribunal and lower courts had failed before Federal Circuit Court Justice Caroline Kirton today rejected an appeal by Priya and her eldest daughter.
The father of the Tamil family, Nades, has already exhausted all avenues of appeal and, along with the rest of the family, remains in immigration detention in Melbourne.
In her judgement, Justice Kirton found the initial assessment by the Immigration Assessment Authority, which denied refugee status, had been properly conducted.
Justice Kirton also noted that Nades had returned to Sri Lanka on three occasions during the civil war and there was no evidence to suggest his family still living in Sri Lanka was at risk from authorities.
She also noted the passage of time since the Sri Lankan civil war, which ended in May 2009.
They now have 21 days to appeal against the judgement.
‘They are devastated’
Biloela resident Angela Fredericks spoke with Priya and Nades this morning on the phone after the judgement was handed down.
“They are devastated, Priya just sobbing and Nades silent, but you can hear the grief, you can hear the fear and you can just hear the desperation and it just totally breaks you,” Ms Fredericks said.
“And if people could actually just hear that fear they would know why these people want to be in Australia.
“They’ve been here for six years. They’ve put roots down here. Their little girls have made friends here. They are safe here. They are part of our town. They deserve to be here.”
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) May 28, 2018
Ms Fredericks works as a mental health professional and said she had “massive concerns” about the impact of the couple and their young children spending more than 100 days in detention.
“We know the studies. We know that this is trauma that [one of the daughters] is going to carry for the rest of her life … and we have done that.”
Biloela community pleads for intervention
Outside court, former Biloela resident and family friend Simone Cameron said she was “very disappointed” in the outcome, and she hoped Mr Dutton would intervene.
“This family has been in detention for 108 days. I can’t keep my toddler locked up for 108 minutes,” Ms Cameron said.
“I don’t know how this wonderful family has coped as well as they can for 108 days … so that would be my plea to Mr Dutton.
“The Biloela community just miss them desperately.
“I saw them on Tuesday – and they were very nervous over the length of time they’ve been detained, and the negative impacts that that’s having on their children.”
Family friend and Biloela resident Pharshan Vijayakunar said he was worried about the family’s welfare if they are forced to return to Sri Lanka.
“I am feeling so terrible because we thought they could come back,” he said.
“Everyone supports them. Everyone likes them, loves them.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said the department was aware of the decision.
“This family’s case has been comprehensively assessed, over many years, by the department, various tribunals and courts,” the spokesperson said.
“They have consistently been found not to meet Australia’s protection obligations.
“Foreign nationals who do not hold a valid visa are expected to depart voluntarily to their country of citizenship.
“Those unwilling to depart voluntarily will be subject to detention and removal from Australia.”
Mr Dutton’s office has been contacted for a response.