Biloela family: Tamil asylum seekers finally arrive home in Queensland

Nick GibbsAAP
Priya and Nades Nadesalingam and their daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa touched down at the Thangool Airport.
Camera IconPriya and Nades Nadesalingam and their daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa touched down at the Thangool Airport. Credit: Getty Images

After four years of detention centres, court challenges and a major medical scare, a family of four Tamil asylum seekers who captured the nation’s hearts have arrived home in Queensland.

Priya and Nades Nadesalingam and their Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa touched down at the Thangool Airport near their home town of Biloela on Friday afternoon.

The family shared a hug on the tarmac, and the two girls waved to the awaiting crowd who clapped and cheered with signs and streamers.

BILOELA, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 10: Priya Murugappan and Nades Murugappan and and their daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa step off the plane on June 10, 2022 in Biloela, Australia. Four years ago, the Murugappan family - a Sri Lankan couple seeking asylum and their two Australian-born children - were removed from their home in central Queensland by the Australian Border Force and taken to immigration detention when their immigration protection visas expired. After a multi-year campaign led by members of the central Queensland community of Biloela, the incoming Labor government has released the family from detention permitting them to return to live and work and Biloela as their case remains before Australia's courts. (Photo by Dan Peled/Getty Images)
Camera IconThe Biloela family were all smiles as they arrived back in Queensland. Credit: Dan Peled/Getty Images

Priya blew a kiss to waiting friends and supporters who have fought for this moment since the family was first detained in March 2018.

Nearly 600,000 people signed Home to Bilo campaigner Angela Frederick’s petition in support of the family, and more than 53,000 phone calls and emails were made and sent to Australian politicians.

BILOELA, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 10: Priya Murugappan and Nades Murugappan step off the plane on June 10, 2022 in Biloela, Australia. Four years ago, the Murugappan family - a Sri Lankan couple seeking asylum and their two Australian-born children - were removed from their home in central Queensland by the Australian Border Force and taken to immigration detention when their immigration protection visas expired. After a multi-year campaign led by members of the central Queensland community of Biloela, the incoming Labor government has released the family from detention permitting them to return to live and work and Biloela as their case remains before Australia's courts. (Photo by Dan Peled/Getty Images)
Camera IconNades Nadesalingam waves after stepping off the plane while his emotional wife Priya acknowledged supporters. Credit: Dan Peled/Getty Images

The family’s return coincides with the Banana Shire’s Flourish Multicultural Festival on Saturday and Tharnicaa’s fifth birthday on Sunday.

She was nine months old when her family was first placed in an immigration detention centre in Melbourne.

BILOELA, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 10: Priya Murugappan and Nades Murugappan and and their daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa step off the plane on June 10, 2022 in Biloela, Australia. Four years ago, the Murugappan family - a Sri Lankan couple seeking asylum and their two Australian-born children - were removed from their home in central Queensland by the Australian Border Force and taken to immigration detention when their immigration protection visas expired. After a multi-year campaign led by members of the central Queensland community of Biloela, the incoming Labor government has released the family from detention permitting them to return to live and work and Biloela as their case remains before Australia's courts. (Photo by Dan Peled/Getty Images)
Camera IconWhat a feeling! Priya Murugappan and Nades Murugappan and their daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa step off the plane. Credit: Dan Peled/Getty Images

The former coalition government tried to deport the family on a commercial flight from Melbourne to Sri Lanka in 2019, but an 11th hour court injunction order the plane land in Darwin.

The four were then held at the Christmas Island detention centre for two years until then immigration minister Alex Hawke moved them to community detention in Perth in mid-2021.

BILOELA, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 10: Supporters of the Murugappan family hold welcome signs ahead of their arrival at the Thangool Aerodrome on June 10, 2022 near Biloela, Australia. Four years ago, Priya and Nades Murugappan and their daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa - a Sri Lankan couple seeking asylum and their two Australian-born children - were removed from their home in central Queensland by the Australian Border Force and taken to immigration detention when their immigration protection visas expired. After a multi-year campaign led by members of the central Queensland community of Biloela, the incoming Labor government has released the family from detention permitting them to return to live and work and Biloela as their case remains before Australia's courts. (Photo by Dan Peled/Getty Images)
Camera IconThe family were greeted by an army of supporters. Credit: Dan Peled/Getty Images

His change-of-heart came after Tharnicaa was medically evacuated with a suspected blood infection.

Following the change of government in May, interim Home Affairs Minister Jim Chalmers gave the family permission to return to Biloela on bridging visas.

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