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An Indian migrant family return to Biloela after four years of detention

 An Indian migrant family return to Biloela after four years of detention

Following an intense four years of detention centres, court challenges and a major medical scare, a family of four Tamil asylum seekers returned home to Queensland. Priya and Nades Nadesalingam and their Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa arrived at the Thangool Airport near their home town in Biloela on Friday (10th June).

Their youngest daughter Tharnicaa was only nine months old when the government put her family into an immigration detention centre in Melbourne. Additionally, the former Coalition government tried to deport the family on a commercial flight from Melbourne to Sri Lanka in 2019; however, an 11th-hour court injunction ordered the plane to land in Darwin.

Nadesalingam family were held at Christmas Island detention centre for the following two years, after which the immigration minister Alex Hawke moved them to the community detention centre in Perth in mid-2021. However, Tharnicaa’s blood infection was the reason why the immigration department shifted her family.

A change of government took place in May 2022, and the interim Home Affairs Minister Jim Chalmers permitted the family to return to Biloela on bridging visas.

Priya and Nades married in Australia after fleeing Sri Lanka’s civil war, arriving separately on people smuggler boats in 2012 and 2013, before they had their Australian-born children Kopika and Tharnicaa. Also, after settling in Biloela, the family gradually befriended people in the community and participated in English Language classes.

The community support

Throughout their immigration journey, Priya and Nades received tremendous support from the Biloela community. For instance, resident Anne Fredericks, mother of the Home to Bilo campaign’s Angela Fredericks, said many community members felt very strongly about the family’s return after getting to know them. Additionally, she said that the family has been through horrific times, and it will take time to get over that; although it will be a long healing process, they will be surrounded by people who love them.

Priya and Nades Nadesalingam

Furthermore, nearly 600,000 people signed Home to Bilo campaigner Angela Frederick’s petition in support of the family. Similarly, Australian politicians received more than 53,000 phone calls and emails regarding the matter over time. Also, many appealed for ministerial intervention wherein the family could come out of the detention centre and return safely to Biloela.

Also, Angela Frederick had a personal call with the new immigration minister Andrew Giles, who assured her of the situation and asked her to ensure the family felt at home. On the other hand, another campaigner Bronwyn Dendle said that the family’s permanent residency is being processed; the comments came after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said there would be no impediment to the family settling in Biloela permanently.

Priya and Nades Nadesalingam

In the official welcome of the family, Gangulu woman Natalee Waterton said the Nadesalingams experienced the same tragic fate as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

When the family arrived at the Thangool airport near Biloela, crowds of friends and supporters waited to welcome them home. Also, many people cheered and clapped with streamers and signs in their hands as the family hugged each other.

The family’s return coincided with the Banana Shire’s Flourish Multicultural Festival on the 12th of June(last Saturday) and Tharnicaa’s birthday on the 13th. Upon their arrival, Priya addressed the crowd through a Tamil translator; she said that it felt like she was reborn when she reached the town. She said she would dedicate her life to the Biloela community and build a better life for her daughters.

Amit Batra

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