Home to Bilo: Tamil family freed from detention to return home in time for daughter’s fifth birthday


The Tamil family will return to Biloela just in time for their little daughter’s fifth birthday – the first year she will celebrate it outside of detention.

Priya and Nadesalingam Murugappan, and their daughters Kopika, six, and Tharnicaa, four, are scheduled to fly from Perth on Wednesday morning. 

A beaming Ms Murugappan was seen giving her husband a kiss outside the airport, as their daughters in matching pink jumpers clutched toy cockatoos. 

‘Me and my family are very happy to start our journey back to my community in Bilo,’ the mother-of-two said after extending her thanks to the WA community. 

The family-of-four then headed towards a plane waiting to return them home to Central Queensland after three years in detention on Christmas Island. 

The beaming family were seen outside Perth airport  on Wednesday morning, with their daughters dressed in matching pink jumpers and holding toy cockatoos

Priya and Nadesalingam Murugappan, and their daughters Kopika, six, and Tharnicaa, four, are scheduled to arrive back in Queensland on Friday afternoon

Priya and Nadesalingam Murugappan, and their daughters Kopika, six, and Tharnicaa, four, are scheduled to arrive back in Queensland on Friday afternoon

The Tamil family are expected to return to their beloved country town in Central Queensland on Friday afternoon, just in time for Tharnicaa's fifth birthday on Sunday (pictured centre)

The Tamil family are expected to return to their beloved country town in Central Queensland on Friday afternoon, just in time for Tharnicaa’s fifth birthday on Sunday (pictured centre)

They are expected to return to their beloved country town on Friday afternoon, just in time for Tharnicaa’s fifth birthday on Sunday. 

Her previous four birthdays had all been spent in detention, either on Christmas Island or in Melbourne when she was only one.

Tharnicaa was just nine months old when her family first entered detention.  

The family’s return to their home in the Banana Shire also coincides with the central Queensland town’s annual Flourish multicultural festival. 

More than $200,000 has been raised to help the family re-establish their life in Queensland, after their story tugged on the heartstrings of Aussies nationwide. 

A change in government meant the family could return to Biloela, where they will remain on bridging visas while their immigration case is resolved in court.

Tharnicaa's last four birthdays had all been spent in detention, either on Christmas Island or in Melbourne when she was only one (she is pictured with her older sister Kopika)

Tharnicaa’s last four birthdays had all been spent in detention, either on Christmas Island or in Melbourne when she was only one (she is pictured with her older sister Kopika)

The Tamil family was seen heading towards a waiting plane ready to return them to their beloved country town after three years in detention on Christmas Island

The Tamil family was seen heading towards a waiting plane ready to return them to their beloved country town after three years in detention on Christmas Island

The family had been fighting to stay in Biloela since they were removed from their home in 2018 after Priya’s bridging visa expired and Nades’ refugee status claim was rejected.

They were taken to a detention centre in Melbourne before going to Christmas Island in August, 2019.

The Labor government had promised they would be able to go home if they were elected into government. 

The family, of which the three eldest members have been granted bridging visas, had been living in Perth awaiting their fate since Tharnicca had to be medically evacuated from the island with a blood infection in June.

A beaming Ms Murugappan was seen giving her husband a kiss outside the Perth Airport

A beaming Ms Murugappan was seen giving her husband a kiss outside the Perth Airport

The little girls were seen taking questions from reporters outside the airport on Wednesday

The little girls were seen taking questions from reporters outside the airport on Wednesday

The Tamil family had been in a high-profile battle to remain in Australia after spending years in detention

The Tamil family had been in a high-profile battle to remain in Australia after spending years in detention

Priya and Nadesalingam Murugappan will be able to throw their daughter a real birthday party for her fifth birthday

Priya and Nadesalingam Murugappan will be able to throw their daughter a real birthday party for her fifth birthday

Nadesalingam and Priya Murugappan had fled Sri Lanka after the country’s civil war, arriving separately on people-smuggling vessels in 2012 and 2013. 

The couple met in Australia, married in 2014 and were both granted temporary visas settling in Biloela, where they had two daughters, Kopika, six and Tharunicaa, four.

The decision to keep the family in detention sparked widespread outrage across Australia as their community and supporters across Australia rallied to have the family brought home.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the cost to the family’s health and the economic cost of their detention provided a clear reason to resolve the case.

‘You can have strong borders without being weak on humanity,’ he said last month.

Labor’s interim Home Affairs Minister Jim Chalmers last month granted the family bridging visas while they work to receive permanent residencies.

‘The effect of my intervention enables the family to return to Biloela, where they can reside lawfully in the community on bridging visas while they work towards the resolution of their immigration status, in accordance with Australian law,’ he said. 

Kopika (left) and  Tharnicaa (right) were pulled out of school in Queensland and sent to a detention centre

Kopika (left) and  Tharnicaa (right) were pulled out of school in Queensland and sent to a detention centre

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the cost to the family’s health and the economic cost of their detention provided a clear reason to resolve the case

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