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Waleed Aly: This Is What Deportation Looks Like

Harrowing footage has emerged from the moment a Tamil family of four were taken to a Melbourne airport to be deported from Australia overnight.

Footage shows the family being loaded into two separate vans and taken by officials to the airport before being forcibly loaded onto a private charter plane, with mum Priya separated from her husband Nades and their two young children.

The vision was shared with The Project, which has been following the family's story for close to 18 months -- ever since they were torn away from their Central Queensland community after their bridging visa expired, co-host Waleed Aly revealed on Friday.

"We hear about deportation and the threat asylum seekers face all the time, we are almost desensitised to it," Aly said.

Usually, it's in reference to nameless faceless people, but these are those people, and this is exactly what deportation looks like.

The harrowing footage shows the family being separated at the airport, with Priya unable to console one of her children who can be heard crying in the video.

"Don't worry, it's going to be fine," an official can be heard telling Priya after she says her arm is in pain from where she is being held.

Nades and the two Australian-born children Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2, are loaded onto the plane.

Priya initially refuses but is later forcibly taken aboard, with the vision showing her screaming and distraught children crying in the commotion.

Speaking to The Project on Friday, after being granted a temporary reprieve on their deportation which forced their plane to make a last-minute landing in Darwin overnight, Priya begged with the Immigration Minister to show her family mercy.

"Please Mr Coleman... please open your heart," Priya says in the video.

Priya claims the family was not allowed to finish their dinner, change their clothes or go to the toilet.

"Kids very upset. But no eating, crying all day. My baby not allowed mum. My heart is broken.

A visibly emotional panel on The Project later said the confronting footage was difficult to watch.

"It's really hard to watch and as you say that's what we never see," host Lisa Wilkinson said.

"We see the real face and the human emotions and the devastation that it wreaks on families that are just trying to make their way in this country."

"I get that the government is saying they don't face danger going back, whatever you think about that, they [the family] clearly think that they are, so can you imagine being on that plane thinking what you're going back to," Aly added.

"This is what discretion is all about. This is the moment where we make a decision to show some mercy," Tom Tilley said.

Appearing on The Project, shadow Home Affairs minister Kristina Keneally said there was such a discretion in the Migration Act, for when courts and the law can't take in all the relevant factors of a case.

Kennealy said one of those reasons was that there now existed a "serious question" about whether it is safe to return Tamils to Sri Lanka.

The second reason, she argued, was because the family had initially been given the right to stay by the government, allowing them to form roots and become a part of their rural Queensland community.

She also levelled criticism at Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, calling on him to use the discretion within his power to save the family.

"If Peter Dutton can use his discretion to bring two au pairs into the country, surely given the scenes we have seen, given the pleas from the Biloela community, given the groundswell of support in Australia to have this family .. stay here and be safe, for the children to be raised here the only country  they've ever know... If he can do it for two au pairs, surely he can do it here."

Contact the author: vgerova@networkten.com.au