'Playing With Their Minds': Biloela Mayor 'Worried' About Deported Tamil Family
The feared deportation of a Tamil family from a town in Central Queensland has "upset" the local community in Biloela, the local mayor said.
Mayor of Banana Shire Council Nev Ferrier said locals in the small rural town were beginning to wonder how the family was faring mentally, after they were whisked away in the middle of the night to be deported back to Sri Lanka, before a last-minute reprieve forced their plane to make an emergency landing in Darwin.
"They have been battling for so long, it looks like they've lost all their chances of staying here," Ferrier told 10 News First on Friday.
Ferrier added that many people were asking why a judge didn't make the decision to spare the family from deportation earlier.
"I think they're just playing with their minds," he said.
Ferrier said the family was one of many immigrant families who stayed in Biloela and worked at the town's local meatworks.
"At the moment there's 17 nationalities working at MeatWorks, and we've got no trouble with them in town," he said.
"They just fit in here like everybody else."
But Ferrier said he was concerned the last-minute reprieve granted to the family on Thursday night would not be enough to allow them to stay, and believes prolonging their pain may be making it worse for their mental health.
"I know that rules are rules and all that sort of stuff but I just think if they're going to send them home, send them now, stop putting them through what they are at the moment."
It comes as reports late Friday afternoon the family has been transferred to Darwin airport. It is believed they are headed for Melbourne, but this is not confirmed.
On Friday, a Melbourne judge extended the last minute injunction until next Wednesday.
The injunction only applies to two-year-old Tharunicaa, meaning her parents and older sister could technically be deported at any time. However, advocates are confident the federal government won't force the other family members out of the country without her.
Priya and her husband Nades fled from Sri Lanka in the civil war and arrived in Australia by boat, separately in 2012 and 2013. The couple later married in Australia and had two children, Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2.
The family moved to Biloela for several years but were bundled up in a pre-dawn raid in March 2018 after Priya's bridging visa expired, and were transported to Melbourne.
They have been in detention ever since, despite the Biloela community pleading with the government to let them stay, and in May their High Court bid to avoid being deported failed.
News of their deportation saw large crowds gather at the airport in Victoria last night, calling for the family not to be deported, while other demonstrators also gathered in Melbourne, Sydney and Darwin following the Judge's decision.
Despite the growing community support, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told Nine's Today program that the family needs to "accept that they are not refugees, they're not owed protection by our country."
Meanwhile, key Labor and Greens politicians have urged the government to "show compassion" and allow the family to stay.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said it was "well past time for Scott Morrison to show some compassion and decency" towards the family.
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