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Emotional moment Sri Lankan asylum seeker family board plane out of Christmas Island

The Biloela family that has been detained on Christmas Island for more than two years are set to be reunited in Australia as father Nadesalingam ‘Nades’ Murugappan and his daughter Kopika were photographed boarding a plane to Perth. 

The federal government has been weighing up what to do with the Sri Lankan asylum seeker family as it faces mounting pressure to let them stay in Australia, where both of their children were born.

Kopika, six, and her loving dad boarded the government charter jet for Western Australia on Tuesday morning where they will met up with mother Priya and the family’s youngest daughter Tharnicaa, four – who had been flown to Perth Children’s Hospital for a painful blood infection.

There was widespread outrage across the country after it was revealed young Tharnicaa was sent to the mainland for treatment while her dad and sister remained at the detention centre.

Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Tuesday announced the family would now be allowed to reside in Perth while their daughter receives treatment, granting the Tamil family a ‘community detention order’.

Nades and Kopika of the Biloela family board a plane on Christmas Island bound for Perth on Tuesday (pictured at the airport) to be reunited with her sister and mother

The federal government has been weighing up what to do with the Sri Lankan asylum seeker family as it faces mounting pressure to let them stay in Australia, where both of their children were born. Pictured: Nades and Kopika of the Biloela family prepare to board a plane to Perth

The federal government has been weighing up what to do with the Sri Lankan asylum seeker family as it faces mounting pressure to let them stay in Australia, where both of their children were born. Pictured: Nades and Kopika of the Biloela family prepare to board a plane to Perth

‘In making this determination I am balancing the government’s ongoing commitment to strong border protection policies with appropriate compassion in circumstances involving children in held detention,’ Mr Hawke said.

‘The family will now reside in suburban Perth through a community detention placement, close to schools and support services, while the youngest child receives medical treatment from the nearby Perth Children’s Hospital and as the family pursues ongoing legal matters.

The decision releases the family from held detention while they pursue ongoing litigation before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Federal Court and High Court.  

But the decision does not create a pathway for a visa.

‘The Government’s position on border protection has not changed. Anyone who arrives in Australia illegally by boat will not be resettled permanently,’ he said.

‘Anyone who is found to not be owed protection will be expected to leave Australia.’

The Biloela family that have been detained on Christmas Island and separated for more than two years. Pictured: Nades and Kopika wave goodbye to Christmas Island

The Biloela family that have been detained on Christmas Island and separated for more than two years. Pictured: Nades and Kopika wave goodbye to Christmas Island

Freedom at last as Nades and Kopika walk the steps of a government charter to Perth on Tuesday

Freedom at last as Nades and Kopika walk the steps of a government charter to Perth on Tuesday

Family friend Angela Fredericks said the decision is a welcome one for the long-suffering asylum seekers, but called for more to be done to bring the family back to their North Queensland home, Biloela.

‘Bringing this family back together is the first important step in getting them home to Bilo,’ Ms Fredericks said. 

‘We are pleased that the Department of Home Affairs is finally taking this family off Christmas Island, after more than three years of sub-standard care in immigration detention in Melbourne and on Christmas Island.  

‘Nades is keen to get back to work in Biloela to support his young family, which he cannot do while the family is forced into community detention. 

‘Priya wants to enrol Kopika at Biloela State School to continue her education. And we promised little Tharni a big birthday party when she got home.

‘Australia knows this family’s home is in Biloela.’ 

The Biloela family that have been detained on Christmas Island for more than two years are set to be reunited in Australia

The Biloela family that have been detained on Christmas Island for more than two years are set to be reunited in Australia

The family's plight is back in the spotlight after four-year-old Tharnicaa was flown with her mother from Christmas Island to the mainland for medical treatment

The family’s plight is back in the spotlight after four-year-old Tharnicaa was flown with her mother from Christmas Island to the mainland for medical treatment

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten told the Today show on Tuesday morning ‘enough is enough’ and the family should be allowed to return to their home in Queensland.

‘The Biloela community in central Queensland years ago signed a petition in massive numbers to say could the family stay where they had been living and working for years,’ he said.

‘Instead, they’ve had this three-year ordeal in our detention. We should reunite the family and let them live in a community who signalled they want to have them.

‘Every year governments exercise discretion. I think the community have shown they want them, so tick.

‘I don’t think it sets a precedent, tick. So let them be reunited.’ 

The family’s plight is back in the spotlight after four-year-old Tharnicaa was flown with her mother from Christmas Island to the mainland for medical treatment.

Tharnicaa’s mother Priya is with her at Perth Children’s Hospital, but her father and older sister were forced to stay behind on the island.  

Priya and Nades Murugappan and their two young daughters (pictured) have been on the island for the past three years

Priya and Nades Murugappan and their two young daughters (pictured) have been on the island for the past three years

Tharnicaa Murugappan (pictured) was medically evacuated to Perth after being hospitalised on Christmas Island with a suspected blood infection

Tharnicaa Murugappan (pictured) was medically evacuated to Perth after being hospitalised on Christmas Island with a suspected blood infection

Earlier on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said work was underway to bring Nades and Kopika to Perth. 

‘I understand the health authorities in WA also make these considerations as to whether the whole family gets reunited,’ he told reporters.

‘But as I understand, there was work being done towards that.’  

It was not a plea for compassion but based on clinical advice of the Tharnicaa’s treating doctors that she must be with family.

Her treatment for pneumonia and sepsis, a life-threatening blood infection, could take up to eight weeks.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was considering its options and would take advice from medical experts at the Department of Home Affairs.

Pressure has been mounting on Mr Morrison to let the family stay in Australia, with politicians from across the spectrum calling for them to be allowed to return to their adopted home of Biloela in Queensland.

Kopika (left) gets taken to school by guards while Priya stays inside to look after four-year-old Tharunicaa (right)

Kopika (left) gets taken to school by guards while Priya stays inside to look after four-year-old Tharunicaa (right) 

He has signalled the government could finally back away from its hardline stance and allow the family to stay in Australia, at least on a temporary basis.

‘There are options that are being considered that are consistent with both health advice and the humanitarian need and the government’s policy,’ Mr Morrison said.

However, the prime minister said permanent resettlement was out of the question.

‘That wouldn’t be government policy for a pathway to permanent settlement – that is not the government’s policy.’

Nine health organisations representing tens of thousands of medical professionals across Australia have signed an open letter calling for the family’s release.

Paediatrician Jacqueline Small from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians said the children must be allowed to develop and grow in the community.

Tharnicaa reads a book from her bed in Perth hospital on Thursday where she is being treated for sepsis. The announcement comes amid growing calls for the federal government to resettle the family

Tharnicaa reads a book from her bed in Perth hospital on Thursday where she is being treated for sepsis. The announcement comes amid growing calls for the federal government to resettle the family

‘We feel very strongly keeping these children in held detention, particularly offshore detention, represents an extreme and unacceptable risk to the children’s health, development and mental wellbeing,’ she told ABC radio.

‘Given both children were in held detention from their toddlerhood, the risks are even higher.’

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce has supported calls for the family to stay in Australia for more than two years.

‘Tharnicaa and Kopika were born in Australia,’ he told Network Seven.

‘Now, maybe if their names were Jane and Sally and they were playing in their local netball side, we’d think twice about sending them back to another country which they’re not from.’

Father Nades and Kopika, six, are set to reunite with mother Priya and Tharnicaa in Perth

Father Nades and Kopika, six, are set to reunite with mother Priya and Tharnicaa in Perth

Labor leader Anthony Albanese rejected the argument that allowing the family to settle would somehow restart the people-smuggling trade. Pictured: Priya and Nades

Labor leader Anthony Albanese rejected the argument that allowing the family to settle would somehow restart the people-smuggling trade. Pictured: Priya and Nades

Mr Joyce also argued Mr and Mrs Murugappan had jobs and were valued members of their local community.

‘In regional Australia, we need people who have jobs. These people should be staying here.’

Labor leader Anthony Albanese rejected the argument showing the family compassion and exercising discretion would somehow restart the people-smuggling trade.

‘This is about a family who are here, this is not a threat to our national sovereignty,’ he said. 

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