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Finbar O'Mallon

Biloela family finally begin trek home

A family of Tamil asylum seekers at the centre of a four-year campaign to return to their Queensland hometown are expected to be there next month.

Nadesalingam and Priya Murugappan and their Australian-born daughters, Kopika, 6, and Tharunicaa, 4, will be leaving Western Australia for Biloela in early June.

Home Affairs Minister Jim Chalmers said on Friday he had exercised his power under Section 195A of the Migration Act to allow the family of four to leave immigration detention in Perth.

The family captured the hearts of Australians after they were taken from their Biloela home in March 2018 and put in immigration detention, kicking off a more than 1500-day campaign from town locals to get them back.

In 2019 courts blocked a coalition attempt to send the family to Sri Lanka, where parents Nadesalingam and Priya were born.

They were then held at the Christmas Island detention centre for two years until then-immigration minister Alex Hawke moved them to community detention in Perth in mid-2021.

The four will leave detention, with mother Priya saying through a friend she couldn’t believe it.

“My prayer is that this government will make a change to the lives of every single refugee who comes here,” Ms Murugappan said.

“All refugees are survivors. They need hope.”

Nadesalingam and Priya fled Sri Lanka after the country’s civil war, arriving separately on people-smuggling vessels in 2012 and 2013.

The couple met in Australia and married in 2014, and both were granted temporary visas settling in Biloela, where they had Kopika and Tharunicaa.

In March 2018, immigration officers took the family from their Biloela home to a Melbourne detention centre after Priya’s bridging visa expired and Nades’ refugee status claim was rejected.

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