Tamil asylum seeker Nadesalingam family wave goodbye to Perth as they finally travel home to Biloela

Daryna ZadvirnaThe West Australian
VideoMurugappan family leaving Perth for Biloela.

After four years in detention, the Nadesalingam family has said goodbye to Perth as they return to their home in central Queensland’s Biloela.

Beaming outside the Perth Airport this morning, Tamil asylum seekers Priya and Nadesalingam (Nades) Murugappan said they were “very happy to start our journey back to our community” with their two daughters, Kopika and Tharnicaa.

The family were held on Christmas Island for two years before their then three-year-old daughter Tharnicaa, was medically evacuated to Perth, where they have been in community detention since June.

Tamil parents Priya and Nades and their Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa Nadesalingam pictured at Perth Airport ahead of their flight home. Ian Munro
Camera IconTamil parents Priya and Nades and their Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa Nadesalingam pictured at Perth Airport ahead of their flight home. Ian Munro Credit: Ian Munro/The West Australian

“Tomorrow it is one year since (staying) in Perth,” Ms Murugappan said.

“I’m very grateful to all the staff at the Perth Children’s Hospital ... I have made great friends.”

Tharnicaa spent two weeks at the Perth Children’s Hospital with a blood infection caused by untreated pneumonia.

Kopika, 6, said she was “happy” to go home in time for her little sister’s birthday.

Tharnicaa will turn five on Sunday and it will be the first time she will celebrate it outside detention.

Tamil parents Priya and Nades and their Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa Nadesalingam pictured at Perth Airport ahead of their flight home. Ian Munro
Camera IconTamil parents Priya and Nades and their Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa Nadesalingam pictured at Perth Airport ahead of their flight home. Ian Munro Credit: Ian Munro/The West Australian

The family, whose fight to remain in Australia has captured the hearts of Australians, were put into into detention in Melbourne in March 2018 after the parents’ refugee claims were refused by the government.

In August 2019 a last minute injunction saw the family’s attempted removal back to Sri Lanka stopped mid-flight, and they were taken to detention on Christmas Island.

Tamil parents Priya and Nades and their Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa Nadesalingam pictured at Perth Airport ahead of their flight home. Ian Munro
Camera IconTamil parents Priya and Nades and their Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa Nadesalingam pictured at Perth Airport ahead of their flight home. Ian Munro Credit: Ian Munro/The West Australian

Mr and Mrs Murugappan fled violence in Sri Lanka and came to Australia a decade ago by boat, settling in Biloela.

As promised before the election, the new Labor Government’s interim Home Affairs Minister Jim Chalmers exercised his power on Friday under the migration act to grant the family bridging visas.

In allowing them to return to the Eastern States and continue working towards obtaining permanent residency, Dr Chalmers said he “wished them well for their return”.

A petition pushing to allow the family to stay in Australia, organised by Home to Bilo spokeswoman Angela Frederick, received almost 600,000 signatures as the Morrison government kept them in detention.

During that time, more than 53,000 phone calls and emails were made to Australian politicians from the family’s supporters across the country.

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