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Biloela Tamil asylum seeker family make tearful return home after four-year struggle against deportation

Priya Nadaraja thanks the Australian people and local community.

The Tamil family at the centre of a four-year immigration battle are finally back home in the central Queensland town of Biloela, ending a community-driven campaign for their return.  

The Nadesalingams were greeted with loud cheers from a crowd of emotional supporters holding signs, chanting and smiling.

The family waved and blew kisses to the crowd, which sung, chanted, wept and danced as they disembarked the plane.

"Thank you so much," Priya Nadaraja said outside the airport this afternoon.

"My community and Australian people, my family, helping -- thank you to all in Bilo community. 

"I'm starting a new life … so happy. Thank you."

Priya says she feels like she is starting a new life. (ABC Capricornia: Rachel McGhee)
Locals were overjoyed to wrap their arms around the family. (ABC Capricornia: Katrina Beavan)

Priya Nadaraja, Nades Murugappan and their daughters, Kopika Nadesalingam and Tharnicaa Nadesalingam, were living in the central Queensland town when their bridging visas expired in 2018 and they were taken into immigration detention.

They were found not to meet Australia's refugee requirements and have since been held in detention in Melbourne, Christmas Island and in community detention in Perth.

It is understood the Albanese government is considering granting the family permanent visas, though the Prime Minister has not spoken about the matter directly.

Marie Austin was among the supporters who couldn't wait to see the plane touch down. (ABC Capricornia: Katrina Beavan)

For now, however, supporters like Marie Austin are just happy to see the Nadesalingams back where they belong.

"To finally be able to see them walk into Biloela — it's just like a dream come true really," she said.

"I didn't ever want to think that it wouldn't, but I just couldn't see how it was going to happen either.

"I'm just so glad that we're here.

There was no shortage of well-wishers to greet the Nadesalingams. (ABC Capricornia: Katrina Beavan)
Many supporters were overcome when they saw the family again. (ABC Capricornia: Rachel McGhee)

Family friend Bronwyn Dendle says "today is a really special day for the community of Biloela and Australia".

"It's a special day for me personally, because I haven't had the opportunity to see my friends in the flesh since they were unnecessarily taken from us over four years ago," she said.

"Today is the day that we prove that you should never underestimate the power of the people.

"Today is the day where we prove that home will always be where the heart is.

"We are so, so grateful to have our beautiful little family home with us in Biloela."

Some supporters feared this day would never come. (ABC Capricornia: Rachel McGhee)
Tharnicaa will turn five on Sunday. (ABC Capricornia: Katrina Beavan)

A weekend of celebrations

Ms Dendle said family's arrival coincided with the town's annual multicultural Flourish Festival, part of which would be dedicated to welcoming them home.

"Then Sunday is Tharni's fifth birthday, her first birthday out of detention," she said.

"We're going to have a birthday party in the park, which is what Bilo locals do. 

Ms Dendle said supporters were rallying around the family to ensure a smooth return to their adopted hometown.

"Once the big celebrations happen this weekend and there's lots of media and lots of interest in them, we're hoping they will just be able to settle into life and get back to life as Bilo locals where they should never have been removed from in the first place," she said.

Supporters are in contact with Immigration Minister Andrew Giles, who they hope will grant the family permanent residency soon.

With additional reporting by Jasmine Hines and Erin Semmler.

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