The residents of the central Queensland town of Biloela have come together to defend the human rights of a Tamil asylum seeker family. Parents, Priya and Nadesalingam and their two Australian born infants, Dharuniga and Kopiga, were snatched from the midst of the town.
The family’s home was raided by Border Force officers, Serco guards and QLD police one week ago. They were awoken from their beds, given a few minutes to pack and transported to Gladstone airport. From there they were flown to Melbourne where they remain detained in isolation at MITA detention centre in Broadmeadows. They were not permitted at the time to make a phone call or to access legal representation. The parents were taken in separate vehicles. The mother, Priya, was prevented from comforting her babies. She later told family members:
“I asked the guards: ‘If it were your children would you treat them this way, or is it only because we are refugees?”
“I was humiliated. I was made to feel worthless. I will never forget that experience.”
The parents were reportedly told by Border Force agents that they would be deported separately if they did not agree to sign “voluntary” deportation papers.
Country QLD is often portrayed as the conservative heartland of Australia where politicians rarely speak about refugee policy. The good people of Biloela have set a shining example to all Australia of a community willing to stand up and be counted to stop the deportations to danger of the family. Neighbours and friends described their shock of seeing and hearing about the Border Force operation in their hometown. A neighbour likened the raid to “Gestapo tactics”. Others said that they feared for the safety of the family they described as peaceful, gentle and generous.
Community members launched a petition addressed to Home Affairs minister, Peter Dutton, calling on him to return the family to Biloela. The petition rapidly reached 25,000 signatures within 24 hours.
Close the Camps Action Collective supports the Biloela community and the Tamil Refugee Council in calling on the Australian government to grant this family permanent protection and to return them to their home in Biloela.
It is not safe to deport Tamil people to Sri Lanka. Asylum seekers returned by the Australian government to Sri Lanka have been interrogated, imprisoned and tortured on return. In some cases they have been disappeared.
Gaye Demanuele, Close the Camps Action Collective spokesperson, stated that Sri Lanka declared a State of Emergency one week ago due to an escalation in anti-Muslim violence. “How can Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull claim that it is safe to deport Tamil asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka when there is mounting and credible evidence reported by Human Rights organisations to the contrary?”
Close the Camps Action Collective spokesperson, Sumarlinah Winoto said “It is not safe to return adult asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, let alone a two year old infant and a 7 month old baby. The children would be traumatised if separated from their parents should they be arrested and imprisoned on return.”
The community of Biloela will hold a vigil in the town for their friends, Priya, Nadesalingam, Dharuniga and Kopiga on Tuesday evening.
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