The Biloela family of Tamil asylum seekers will be reunited on the Australian mainland after being held on Christmas Island since 2019. However, the government is still refusing to grant them protection visas to remain in Australia.
The news comes as the family were thrust back into the spotlight when the youngest daughter, three-year-old Tharnicaa, was rushed to hospital in Perth when she contracted sepsis. After days of mounting pressure, the government finally made an announcement.
“Today I have exercised my power under section 197AB of the Migration Act to make a residence determination to allow the Sri Lankan family currently held in detention to reside in the Perth community,” Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a statement on Tuesday morning.
“In making this determination I am balancing the government’s ongoing commitment to strong border protection policies with appropriate compassion in circumstances involving children held in detention.”
The government isn’t returning the family #HomeToBilo, the Central Queensland town where the two parents, Priya and Nades Muruguppan, settled down in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Nor is the government granting the family any kind of visa which allows them to remain in Australia.
However, the government is nevertheless removing the family from a detention centre where their two young daughters developed a bunch of health conditions and vitamin deficiencies from a lack of sunlight and fruit.
In community detention, the family will still be supervised and won’t be able to live like normal members of society.
Statement on the Sri Lankan family in held detention. pic.twitter.com/2pH7USZJQV
— Alex Hawke MP (@AlexHawkeMP) June 14, 2021
“Today’s decision releases the family from held detention and facilitates ongoing treatment while they pursue ongoing litigation before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Federal Court and High Court,” Hawke added.
“Importantly, today’s decision does not create a pathway to a visa.
“As required by court orders, I will consider at a future date whether to lift the statutory bar presently preventing members of the family from reapplying for temporary protection, for which they have previously been rejected.”
The people of Biloela, asylum seeker advocates, state premiers, Christmas Island locals and even the Liberal Party’s own backbench all reckon the family should be allowed to stay in Biloela, or at the very least settle in another safe country.
So while any announcement is expected to be good news for a family who’ve literally been held in limbo for years, whacking them straight into community detention isn’t necessarily the outcome everyone had been hoping for.