Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Refugee Family Sent Packing

Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Refugee Family Sent Packing

Article excerpt

Byline: Sarah Steger

A CLOSE-knit community has condemned the Department of Home Affairs after a much-loved family was removed from their home and taken to a Melbourne detention centre.

The people of Biloela were left stunned when the Sri Lankan family's home was stormed by Australian Border Security at 5am last Monday.

Priya, Nadesalingam and their two daughters Dharuniga and Kopiga moved to Australia and settled in Biloela more than three years ago on a bridging visa.

Community member Angela Fredericks has told the Tamil Refugee Council the peaceful family was going about their early-morning routine when their home was raided.

"Nades was getting ready to go to his job at the local meatworks and Priya was warming a bottle for the baby," Ms Fredericks said.

"Their seven-month-old and two-and-a-half-year-old daughters were ripped from their beds.

"(They) were given 10 minutes to pack up their lives."

A neighbour who witnessed the raid described it as something out of a Hollywood movie.

Following what Tamil Refugee Council spokesman Ben Hillier called an "extraordinary incident", Priya and Nades were put into separate vans, driven to Gladstone Airport and flown to the Broadmeadows Detention Centre.

Biloela residents have sent a petition to Home Affairs, Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton calling for the family to be returned.

So far, 5868 people have signed it.

"To rip a family from a community and potentially deport them back to uncertainty and danger is quite serious, which is reflected in the tremendous amount of community anger and response," Mr Hillier said.

A Department of Home Affairs spokesman said the family's case had been comprehensively assessed over many years by the department and various tribunals and courts.

"They have consistently been found not to meet Australia's protection obligations," the spokesman said.

"Foreign nationals who do not hold a valid visa and who have exhausted all outstanding avenues to remain in Australia are expected to depart voluntarily to their country of citizenship. …

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