Husband and wife Nadesalingam and Priya and their Australia-born daughters, nine-month-old Dharuniga and two-year-old Kopiga, were forcibly taken, without warning, into immigration detention in Melbourne, more than 1,500km from their home.
The family has been told they face imminent deportation.
Australian Border Force officials, accompanied by police and Serco guards arrived at the family’s home at 5am on Monday 5 March. The family said they were given 10 minutes to pack and driven to Gladstone airport where they were flown to Melbourne.
They remain in immigration detention in Melbourne. They said when they were taken into detention they were told to sign documents assenting to their “voluntary removal” and told if they did not sign them, they would be denied access to a phone, and forcibly deported separately.
On Tuesday afternoon they signed the papers but have said their signatures were not voluntary, but made under unfair duress.
The Guardian put all these allegations to the Department of Home Affairs in a detailed list of questions. A spokesperson said the family’s asylum application had “been comprehensively assessed by the department, various tribunals and courts”.
“They have consistently been found not to meet Australia’s protection obligations.
“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,” the spokesperson said. “Those unwilling to depart voluntarily will be subject to detention and removal from Australia.
“All detention and removal operations are carried out in a way that ensures the safety and security of detainees. Appropriate consideration is given to the needs of any children involved.”
The family had been living in Biloela for four years. Nadesalingam and Priya married in 2014, having arrived separately in Australia by boat seeking asylum in 2012 and 2013, in the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s brutal 26-year civil war.
Nadesalingam had links to the former separatist army, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Former cadre face continued persecution in Sri Lanka, international observers such at the UN and Amnesty say.
Nadesalingam’s application for protection has been rejected by Australia, and his appeal options extinguished. Legal avenues remain open for Priya to appeal against her protection application rejection.
In their years in Australia, Nadesalingam and Priya had built a life and a family. Nadesalingam worked at the Biloela meatworks.
Priya’s bridging visa expired on 4 March but she was in regular communication with a case worker from the Department of Home Affairs before and after that date to have it renewed. She said she had been told she would be receiving a new visa by mail from the department.
Residents of Biloela took to social media to express their support for the family, and their shock at their sudden removal. The community has started a change.org appeal asking that they be allowed to stay.
“Omg, these are just a lovely family, have them in my prayers for a speedy and safe return to our community here in Biloela,” Michelle Horrocks wrote.
Rex Gruspe lived next door to the family, and said they were good neighbours.“We happened to see each other when I [was] going to work and Priya taking the children for a walk, Nadesh is always happy to help when he saw me doing DIY in the house.”
FOR FULL STORY PLEASE CLICK THE LINK BELOW: