Supporters Of Biloela Tamil Family Rally Across The Country To 'Let Them Stay'
Australians are refusing to stay silent, turning out at rallies across the country to voice their support for the Tamil family battling deportation.
More than a dozen protests kicked off on Sunday afternoon, in capital cities and in the small Queensland town of Biloela -- where Priya, Nades and their two Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharunicaa lived for four years.
Holding signs reading, 'Enough is Enough', crowds of supporters stood together chanting, "bring them home" and "let them stay". In Melbourne, hundreds held a five-minute vigil before singing Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.
As protesters gathered across the country, the family made brief contact on Sunday afternoon from Christmas Island, where they were flown to on Friday.
Priya told 10 News First, her condition was "not good" and said her children were struggling to cope inside the detention centre.
"My baby all time very upset," she said over the phone.
"Crying all day, not eating, very upset baby. Very tough situation".
Federal Greens leader Richard Di Natale attended the rally in Melbourne, where he accused Immigration Minister Peter Dutton of "taking pleasure in the suffering of others".
"This is senseless cruelty, this is cruelty for the sake of being cruel," he said.
"This is a minister in Peter Dutton taking pleasure in the suffering of others, that's what going on here. It's barbaric, it's cruel and it needs to end."
Last-minute negotiations on Thursday and Friday saw the family avoid immediate deportation to Sri Lanka.
But after first being moved from Brisbane to Melbourne, then to Darwin late on Thursday, they were flown to the Christmas Island detention centre, far off the coast of Australia, sometime on Friday.
Carina Ford, a lawyer representing the family, said she believes they're the only detainees on the island that was quietly closed in October 2018, but then reopened after the controversial refugee 'medevac' laws were passed.
Ford claimed that "it may have been specifically re-opened for them".
Rebekah Holt, a journalist and friend of the family, told supporters in Melbourne she spoke to Priya on Saturday and said she's "afraid".
"All I could hear in her voice ... was the stress, the exhaustion and the fear.
"I asked her if she had a message and she said 'we're all alone here'," Holt said.
In a statement to 10 daily on Saturday, the Department of Home Affairs would not comment on why the family had been moved to Christmas Island.
"Since 2012, the family’s claims to engage Australia’s protection obligations have been comprehensively assessed on a number of occasions by the Department of Home Affairs and various merits review bodies," a spokesperson for the department said.
"The family has consistently been found not to be owed protection."
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese on Sunday called the decision to move the family to Christmas Island "extraordinary", pleading for the government to show discretion in the case.
"This is publicly-funded cruelty on behalf of a government who really has lost touch and lost its way," he said.
Albanese called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to "have a discussion" with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.
"It is at the discretion of the minister," he said.
"Minister Dutton has got himself in a circumstance whereby, in order to show that he's harsh and tough, he's showing that he has no humanity. Australia is a better country than that."
Shadow Education Minister Tanya Plibersek also joined the chorus of other politicians and supporters calling on Dutton to intervene in the case.
"It is without question, one of those examples where common sense and compassion would say, use your ministerial discretion," she told the ABC's Insiders program on Sunday.
"Let's just let this family stay."
The Tamil asylum seeker family, who lived in the Queensland town of Biloela for four years, were on Thursday granted an eleventh-hour injunction against their deportation.
A plane carrying the young family was ordered to land in Darwin after it had already taken off from Melbourne, en route to Sri Lanka.
Moving the family to Christmas Island has created logistical issues for lawyers who are due to face the Federal Circuit Court on Monday and the Federal Court on Wednesday.
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