Interim Minister for Home Affairs Jim Chalmers has intervened in the immigration case of the Murugappan family to allow them to return to Biloela.
Exercising his power under section 195A of the Migration Act 1958, his intervention will allow the family of four to reside lawfully on bridging visas as their legal battle continues. For nearly four years, Priya, Nadesalingam ‘Nades’, Kopika, and Tharnicaa Murugappan have been living in immigration detention.
“I have spoken to the family and wished them well for their return. This decision will allow them to get ‘home to Bilo’, a big-hearted and welcoming Queensland town that has embraced this beautiful family,” Chalmers said.
While the young girls were born in Australia, parents Nades and Priya have been deemed illegal arrivals and do not hold citizenship. They arrived in Australia by boat in 2012 and 2013 after fleeing civil war in Sri Lanka. In 2018, they had attempted to seek asylum after after their temporary visas expired and they were removed from their Biloela home.
Last year, after 18 months in offshore detention on Christmas Island, the family had been given bridging visas to move into community detention in Perth after the youngest daughter required medical evacuation due to a blood infection.
Notably, this will be the first time Tharnicaa, who turns five next month, will not spend a birthday in detention.
During the federal election campaign, the Labor Party had been vocal about intervening in the family’s immigration case.
“We are a strong enough society to say that we should not treat people badly in order to send a message to others,” Labor leader Anthony Albanese had stated.
While announcing his intervention, Minister Chalmers reiterated the government’s commitment to intercepting vessels seeking to reach Australia illegally.
“This Government remains committed to Operation Sovereign Borders and keeping people smugglers out of business. Australian border protection authorities will intercept any vessel seeking to reach Australia illegally, and safely return those on board to their point of departure or country of origin,” he said.