Tamil family holds hope for Australia stay


The transfer of a Tamil asylum seeker family to Christmas Island is “not normal”, their lawyer says, after the family was granted a temporary reprieve from deportation.

Supporters lost contact with the family, from Biloela in Queensland, on Friday night but learned just after 2am they had arrived at the detention centre on the island, northwest of Australia.

The family’s lawyer Carina Ford told AAP she learned of their transfer after it occurred, in an email from the Department of Home Affairs.

Priya, her husband Nadesalingam and their Australian-born children Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2, had been held at a Darwin military base .

Priya was able to make contact with family and friends when they arrived at Christmas Island.

“My children have been separated from their world,” she said.

The move comes after a judge issued a last-minute injunction to halt their deportation from Melbourne to Sri Lanka on Thursday night.

The family landed in Darwin after the order was made and were taken off the plane.

Moving detainees without warning isn’t unusual, but “the transfer to Christmas Island is not normal”, Ms Ford said.

“It definitely makes our job harder and it’s disappointing,” Ms Ford said, describing new logistical issues as “frustrating”.

She is now waiting to hear back from lawyers for Immigration Minister David Coleman about how the family’s legal team will be able to have access to their clients, including to get documents signed.

They had arranged lawyers in Darwin to assist with that over the weekend.

The Department of Home Affairs wouldn’t comment on the family’s relocation on Saturday, noting it would be inappropriate as the matter is before the courts.

Government minister Zed Seselja told ABC the assessment process is “pretty fair” but added he understood individual cases “can be very difficult”.

But Labor senator Katy Gallagher called the transfer cruel and called for compassion.

“The minister has the capacity to intervene in special circumstances. I think there is no doubt this family qualify for that,” she told ABC.

A Home Affairs spokeswoman said the family had been “comprehensively assessed” and found to not be owed protection.

But Federal Court Judge Mordy Bromberg on Friday extended an injunction, initially issued Thursday night, after lawyers for the family argued Priya and Nades’ two-year-old daughter Tharunicaa had never had her claim assessed.

The family’s legal team say only Tharunicaa is protected under the injunction and the rest of her family could be legally deported, but their lawyer Carina Ford said Australia would be condemned if the family was split up.

Despite mounting community pressure, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is refusing to budge.

“I would like the family to accept that they are not refugees, they’re not owed protection by our country,” he told the Nine Network on Friday.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister David Coleman told AAP he was not commenting on the case.

Rallies in support of the family have been planned in all state capitals on Sunday.

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