The Biloela family who have been detained on Christmas Island for more than two years have set foot in Australia and been reunited at Perth Hospital.
Father Nadesalingam ‘Nades’ Murugappan and his daughter Kopika, 6, were photographed in a car driving towards the hospital on Tuesday evening.
They were on their way to meet with Mr Murugappan’s wife Priya and four-year-old daughter Tharnicaa, who had been flown to Western Australia from Christmas Island to treat a painful blood infection earlier this week.
Nades Murugappan (pictured) and his Australian-born daughter Kopika, 6, leave Perth airport on June 15 after arriving back in the country from detention on Christmas Island
Mr Murugappan holds up the ID card of his Australian-born daughter Kopika as they arrived in Perth
They are not required to enter hotel quarantine as they have not left Australian soil, with Christmas Island being an Australian territory.
The federal government is under mounting pressure to let the Sri Lankan asylum seeker family stay in Australia, where both children were born.
There was widespread outrage across the country after it was revealed young Tharnicaa was sent to the mainland with her mother for treatment while her father 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’.
‘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.’
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 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.’
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.
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 Biloela family have been detained on Christmas Island for more than two years (pictured, Nades and Kopika wave goodbye to the island)
‘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 have been 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
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.’
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
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.
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.
Kopika (left) gets taken to school by guards while Priya stays inside to look after four-year-old Tharunicaa (right)
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
‘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
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.