A Tamil asylum seeker family who were set to be deported from Australia but were given a last minute reprieve on Thursday night are ‘not owed protection’ because they ‘are not refugees’, according to Peter Dutton.
Kokilapathmapriya Nadesalingham (Priya), her husband Nadesalingam Murugappan (Nades) and their two Australian-born daughters, aged four and two, were boarded onto a plane and in the air headed back to Colombo, Sri Lanka.
However, in the final hours of the night Judge Heather Riley granted an injunction to block the move while their plane was in the air.
Their plane landed in Darwin just before 3am, with moving footage showing the family being escorted off the plane, into a waiting van.
The fight is far from over though, with the injunction only lasting until midday on Friday, and a hearing scheduled for 10am in the Melbourne registry of the Federal Circuit Court.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said while the government is expected to go through the court process, the family will still be deported.
‘This case has gone on for a long time… it’s been on review to the Magistrates Court, on review to the Magistrates Court, on review to the Federal Court, to the full Federal Court, to the High Court,’ Mr Dutton told Channel Nine’s Today Show.
Priya, her husband Nadesalingam and their two Australian-born daughters, who were being deported from Australia won a last-minute reprieve after a judge granted an eleventh-hour injunction to block the move
Mr Dutton said the family came to Australia by boat and made it clear that they ‘were not allowed to stay’.
‘I would like the family to accept that they are not refugees, they’re not owed protection by our country,’ he said.
‘We’ve been clear and consistent in the messaging that we aren’t going to allow people to settle by boat.’
Despite having two Australian born daughters, Kopika and Tharunicaa, Mr Dutton insists the family knew they would have to leave the country.
Daily Mail Australia understands Friday’s hearing will consider whether the Minister’s office gave proper consideration in its choice not to allow a protection claim to be made in two-year-old Tharunicaa’s name.
Supporters told Daily Mail Australia the family are ‘absolutely exhausted, yet so relieved to still be here with a fighting chance’.
Supporters will gather in Sydney and Melbourne to show their support, and others encouraged to call Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office.
The family’s plane landed in Darwin just before 3am, and they were ushered off and into a waiting van
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said while the government is expected to go through the court process, the family will still be deported
Angela Fredericks, who is behind the campaign to keep the family in Australia, said she is unsure what will happen to them now.
‘I’d dare say they’d be escorted off the plane then I’d say they would be back in a detention centre so whether they will be flown back to Melbourne I don’t know,’ she said.
Family friend Simone Cameron, who used to teach Nadesalingam English, told the Courier Mail the family were ‘generous’ and ‘good-hearted’ and beloved by their local community in Biloela, Queensland.
‘We are so lucky in Australia and when people come seeking asylum, we should help them. They arrived in Biolela looking for peace and safety – they didn’t ask for much,’ she said.
The family had lived and worked in Biloela, a rural town in central Queensland, for four years on a temporary bridging visa before it ran out in March 2018.
They had been held in a Melbourne detention centre since March 2018, after being taken from their home during a pre-dawn raid.
The High Court then denied their final bid to stay in Australia in May 2018.
Last week the family found out their efforts to stay in the country had been rejected, with supporters calling on the federal immigration minister to reconsider.
Supporters previously said they feared the family would be in danger if sent back to Sri Lanka, due to past family links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Earlier, the family had been forced from the detention centre into two vans and whisked off to Melbourne airport.
‘I [got] a video call and their whole unit is surrounded by about twenty guards, Priya was just sitting in a chair and [border force guards] were telling them they were being deported tonight,’ family friend Simone Cameron told the ABC at the time.
‘Priya reports that some of the guards have been rough and aggressive with her that she can’t feel one of her shoulders.
‘She asked for the chance to go and could change her clothes and they refused her that.’
Ms Cameron said the situation was incredibly traumatic for the family, who have a history of trauma.
More than 70 of the family’s supporters rushed to Melbourne airport, chanting ‘let them stay’ on the side of the tarmac as they watched the family’s charter plane take off.
They held up signs that read ‘free the Tamil refugees. End mandatory detention’.
‘There are about 30 to 40 protesters gathered behind the fence. We are in view of the Skytraders plane,’ Change.org campaigns director Nic Holas said from the airport protest.
The rural town of Biloela in Central Queensland has been rallying behind the family, and more than 200,000 Australians have signed an online petition to keep them in Australia
‘We understand Priya and her family have been put in the hanger.
‘This is an informal group. These are just concerned Australians and we are trying to prevent this family from being deported.’
It wasn’t just protesters at the airport calling for the family to be allowed to stay in Australia, with more than 200,000 Aussies signing a Change.org online petition.
Video posted to Facebook appeared to show Nadesalingam sitting on a charter plane with his two-year-old daughter Tharunicaa on his lap and four-year-old daughter Kopika sitting next to him.
Priya is understood to have been separated from her family about 7.30pm on Thursday before being reunited at the airport ahead of their flight.
The Department of Immigration had previously stated the family’s case had been assessed over many years.
A friend of the Sri Lankan family who taught Nades English in Queensland said they were quickly forced into two vans on Thursday night and whisked off to Melbourne airport