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Court victory for Biloela Tamil family over procedural fairness, fears of post-election deportation

The Nadesalingam family has been fighting deportation for almost four years. (Australian Story: Robert Koenig-Luck)

Supporters of a Tamil asylum-seeker family removed from Biloela in central Queensland almost four years ago have welcomed a court ruling which means family members can apply for new bridging visas.

The Federal Circuit Court found the federal government's decision to prevent three members of the family from applying for further bridging visas was "procedurally unfair".

Carina Ford, lawyer for the Nadesalingam family, said the court based its decision on two reasons — one was that a submission that had been given to the department had not been taken into account.

Secondly, the "invitation to comment — the letter prior to making the decision — didn't properly outline the reasons why it was in the public interest to do so [prevent further bridging visas]", Ms Ford said.

Biloela resident and friend of the family Angela Fredericks said it was a "really big win".

"This is another example where the minister has been found to be procedurally unfair towards our family," Ms Fredericks said.

"All we're asking is for the minister to use these powers to do what's right and let our friends come home to Biloela."

Tharnicaa was born in Australia in June 2017. (Australian Story: Robert Koenig-Luck)

Where to next?

Priya, Nades and Kopika have bridging visas that are due to expire in September.

However, as four-year-old Tharni was not granted a bridging visa, the family remained in "community detention" in Western Australia.

Ms Ford said the latest ruling meant that three of the family members now had the option to reapply for a bridging visa.

She emphasised that the public interest in the case was still strong, and the family had a lot of support.

However, both Ms Ford and Ms Fredericks said they did not think there would be any more movement on the case until the federal election.

"Look, we are so hopeful that if Labor wins, they will return the family to Biloela," Ms Fredericks said.

"We had in-depth conversations with [Senator] Kristina Keneally, we've also spoken to [Opposition leader] Anthony Albanese.

"So we are confident that they have listened to our community, they know that this family are an asset to Biloela and to rural Australia, so we do believe they would return the family."

Kopika's family members can reapply for a bridging visa.  (Australian Story: Robert Koenig-Luck)

Ms Fredericks said supporters were fearful the family would be deported if the Morrison government won the election.

"We're not holding out hope the current government [will let them stay], as they've had two terms to do something about this.

'Another day of separation'

Ms Fredericks said the family was well, but very tired.

"Priya had another very stressful night, she always gets very worried about all these court cases.

"This morning, she was feeling a lot of relief knowing that we did have a win today.

"Being in community, at least in Perth, Nades has been able to start working again.

"The girls have been going to school. However, at the end of the day, they're not with their friends, they're not with their community.

"And so every day that passes is another day of separation."

In a statement, Senator Keneally confirmed that a Labor government would  "bring the family home to Bilo" if elected.

"However, this need not wait for an election — Immigration Minister Alex Hawke can bring this sorry saga to an end today and allow the family to come home to Biloela," she said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said it was aware of the court's decision and was "considering the implications".

"It would be inappropriate to comment further during the appeal period," the spokesperson said.

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