The Murugappan family said they “cannot believe” they will finally be returning home to the Queensland community of Biloela, following years in community detention.
The Murugappans are currently processing their new bridging visas in Perth and will return to the outback community in early June, following intervention from interim Home Affairs Minister Jim Chalmers allowing the family to return to Biloela.
“Finally, everything is here. I cannot believe it,” Priya Murugappan said.
“My prayer is that this government will make a change to the lives of every single refugee who comes here. All refugees are survivors.
“They need hope. I had the support of Nades (her husband) and we had the support of the people of Bilo. But many others don’t have that support.”
Biloela locals Angela Fredericks and Bronwyn Dendle, who are behind the Back to Bilo campaign, said they were notified by the interim home affairs minister of the news.
Fredericks said while she supported the decision of the government to issue new bridging visas to the family, the Murugappans are still fighting for permanent residency.
“We have spoken with Priya and Nades and they share our overwhelming sense of joy and relief at this news, and we all welcome the decision to issue the entire family with bridging visas,” Fredericks said.
“But this family will never be safe until they have permanency in Australia.”
Fredericks said the move back to Biloela would mark “the end of a long, painful chapter in their lives”, and called on the Albanese government to reform Australia’s treatment of refugees.
“We sincerely hope that the newly elected Labor government will recognise what the international community already knows: that Sri Lanka is not safe for Tamil people,” Fredericks said.
“We hope that the new government can acknowledge the distress that prolonged detention and uncertainty has caused for many Tamil people in Australia, and grant them the safety and security that only permanent protection can bring.
“We cannot wait to welcome our friends back home to Bilo with some warm hugs, happy tears, and a very big welcome home party.”
Chalmers said he used ministerial intervention to bring the Tamil family back to their home in outback Queensland, notifying them of the news this afternoon.
“Today, in my capacity as interim Minister for Home Affairs, I exercised my power under section 195A of the Migration Act 1958 to intervene in the case of the Murugappan family,” Chalmers said in a statement.
“The effect of my intervention enables the family to return to Biloela, where they can reside lawfully in the community on bridging visas while they work towards the resolution of their immigration status, in accordance with Australian law.”
“This decision will allow them to get ‘home to Bilo’, a big-hearted and welcoming Queensland town that has embraced this beautiful family.”
Chalmers said the Labor government would continue to support Operation Sovereign Borders, which states any asylum seeker arriving in the country by boat will be turned away and not resettled in Australia.
The attempted deportation of the Murugappan family was one of the most contentious issues of the previous government.
The case had been in and out of court for years, with the previous immigration minister declining to intervene in their favour.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said earlier today the return of the Murugappan family would be “a great day for humanity.”
“I know how much the community wants this family returned to Biloela,” she said.
Western Australia’s Deputy Premier, Roger Cook, said the deportation of the Murugappan family was a “horrible chapter in Australian public life” the public would be “delighted” to but behind them.
“This family required compassion and care given the trauma and the treatment they received in detention… so I’d be delighted to see that family returned with the Biloela community,” Cook said.
“They are so thankful for the care and compassion they’ve received despite the poor treatment they’ve received from the Australian government.”
“I’ve met the Murugappa family on a number of occasions you could not meet a group of more humble and sweet people.”