The project’s host, Lisa Wilkinson, has passed the Australian government over the plight of a Tamil family who was ripped from their home in Biloela and sent to Christmas Island.
The Tamil family of four was rounded up from their home in Queensland by Border Force immigration officers in March 2018 and later exiled to Christmas Island.
Since then, they have been in the midst of a protracted legal battle to keep them in Australia, despite immigration minister Alex Hawke being able to grant a residence permit.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Ms Wilkinson exclaimed after Waheed Aly first interviewed the family together on Thursday’s show.
‘I think it’s just political football, no more people.’
The family of four was taken from their Queensland home in March 2018 by Border Force immigration officers and later exiled to Christmas Island. (Pictured, Nades Murugappan with his wife Priya and daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa)
She appeared on the verge of tears as the camera cut back to her after the couple’s two young daughters begged, “I want to go home to Bilo.”
The family has been in a legal quandary since they were put in custody three years ago, the day after their mother’s visa expired.
Father Nades Murugappan arrived in Australia by boat from Sri Lanka in 2012 and applied for asylum, fearing reprisals after being forced to join the Tamil Tigers in 2001.
He later met his wife-to-be Priya after she arrived separately in 2013, also by boat, to apply for asylum.
She says she cannot return to Sri Lanka after her fiancé and five other men from her village were burned alive by the Sri Lankan army.
The couple settled in Biloela – a town with a history of welcoming refugees – before daughters Kopika, 6, and Tharnicaa, 4, were both born in Australia.
Tharnicaa has spent every birthday in detention since then.
The project’s host, Lisa Wilkinson (pictured) has flogged the Australian government over the plight of a Tamil family who was ripped from their home in Biloela and sent to Christmas Island.
Daughters Kopika, 6, and Tharnicaa, 4, (pictured) were both born in Australia and miss their home in Queensland
The family was initially detained in Melbourne, but when their refugee status was denied in August 2019, they were put on a plane to return to Sri Lanka.
A court order managed to stop the deportation while their flight to Darwin was in the air, but instead they were flown to the Indian Ocean to be the only prisoners on Christmas Island.
The girls told Waheed Aly that they hated life on the remote rock off the coast of northern Western Australia.
“I don’t like it,” they told him. ‘No friends…’
The local community in Queensland launched a Home To Bilo campaign to try to get the family back, but pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
The family was finally allowed to fly to Perth after Tharnicaa fell ill on Christmas Island in June and had to be taken away for vital emergency treatment for sepsis and suspected pneumonia
Tharnicaa (pictured) fell ill on Christmas Island in June and had to be taken away for vital emergency treatment for sepsis and suspected pneumonia
The family was finally allowed to move to Perth after Tharnicaa (pictured here with mother Priya) fell ill on Christmas Island in June
They are now living in the community in Perth as the final legal appeals take place – but at any time the Immigration Secretary, Mr Hawke, can step in to save them.
But he fears that if they settled permanently in Australia, others would only be encouraged to make the perilous journey Down Under by boat.
People smugglers could even take advantage of the case to convince vulnerable people to try the trip.
“We do not believe that anyone who has come by boat should be allowed to be permanently established in Australia,” he said.
The Murugappan family (pictured) now lives in the community in Perth as final legal appeals take place
Waheed Aly (pictured) first interviewed the Murugappan family together on The Project on Thursday
‘Our advice regularly comes from agencies that the trade in human misery that is human smuggling can restart at any moment.’
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ruled out ministerial interventions despite the young girls being born in the country.
Father Nades said they just wanted to return to the community in Biloela for the sake of his daughters, rather than him and his wife.
“I’m not worried about the two of us, we’ve lived,” he told the show. “We beg the minister to think about the future of our children and let us live safely.”
Father Nades (pictured with wife Priya and daughters Tharnicaa and Kopika) said they simply wanted to return to the community in Biloela for the sake of his daughters, rather than him and his wife.
The parents now have a three-month bridging visa that expires next month.
Waheed Aly added: “It is clearly a very sad situation. You can’t help but fall in love with those kids when you talk to them.
“One of the interesting things they told me was that their story had gotten quite a bit of attention in Sri Lanka.
So there’s one thing about sending people back to Sri Lanka and whether that’s safe, but mostly for them, because it’s high-profile.
‘A lot of eyes are on that. And I think they’re very concerned about that.’