Biloela Tamil asylum seekers family returns home in tears after four years of fighting deportation

The Tamil family, at the center of a four-year immigration battle, have finally returned home to the city of Biloela in central Queensland, ending a community-led campaign for their return.

The Nadesalingams were greeted with loud cheers from a crowd of emotional supporters who chanted and laughed.

The family waved and blew kisses to the crowd, who sang, sang, cried and danced as they disembarked.

“Thank you very much,” said Priya Nadaraja outside the airport this afternoon.

“My community and Australian people, my family, are helping – thank you to everyone in the Bilo community.

“I’m starting a new life… so happy. Thank you.”

Priya says she feels like she’s starting a new life.ABC Capricornia: Rachel McGhee
A group of people at an airport, smiling.
The 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 city of Queensland when their transition visa expired in 2018 and they were taken into immigration detention.

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

It is clear that the Albanian government is considering granting the family permanent visas, although the prime minister has not spoken directly on the matter.

A smiling woman with a big "welcome" sign at an airport.
Marie Austin was one of the supporters who couldn’t wait to see the plane land.ABC Capricornia: Katrina Beavan

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

“To finally see them walk into Biloela – it’s like a dream come true,” she said.

“I never wanted to think that it wouldn’t happen, but I couldn’t see how it would happen either.

“I’m just so glad we’re here.

A young boy is holding a welcome sign in an airport.
There was no shortage of benefactors to greet the Nadesalingams.ABC Capricornia: Katrina Beavan
A woman with long gray hair wipes away tears as she stands outside an airport.
Many supporters were overwhelmed when they saw the family again.ABC Capricornia: Rachel McGhee

Family friend Bronwyn Dendle says “today is a very special day for the community of Biloela and Australia”.

“It’s a special day for me personally as I haven’t had the chance to see my friends in person since they were needlessly taken from us more than four years ago,” she said.

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

“Today is the day when 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.”

A family stands on the tarmac next to an airplane and emotionally greets a crowd.
Some supporters feared that this day would never come.ABC Capricornia: Rachel McGhee
Two little girls get sparkling streamers at an airport.
Tharnicaa turns five on Sunday.ABC Capricornia: Katrina Beavan

A weekend full of parties

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

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“Then Sunday will be Tharni’s fifth birthday, her first birthday out of detention,” she said.

“We are going to have a birthday party in the park, which the locals of Bilo are doing.

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

“Once the big celebrations take place this weekend and there’s a lot of media and a lot of interest in them, we hope they can just settle into life and come back to life as Bilo residents, from which they should never have been removed. first place,” she said.

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

With additional coverage by Jasmine Hines and Erin Semmler.

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