The recent victory of the Labor party in the 2022 federal elections saw relief for many asylum seekers who had been kept in detention centres awaiting deportation – namely, the Murugappan family, a family of four who are Tamil refugees from the Sri Lankan civil war.
Four years ago, the family was taken from their home in the central Queensland town of Biloela and placed in immigration detention in Perth where they were kept under close watch and unable to leave the state. The coalition had been adamant in asserting that they would not be willing to grant them permanent residency since their arrival in Australia was by boat and were planning on deporting them at their soonest available time, however a last-minute injunction in 2019 delayed this process and they remained in detention.
The forceful removal of the Murugappan family from their home caused major backlash from the people of Biloela, who started campaigning for their return. This caught the attention of the Labor government, who promised to grant the family a visa and permit their return home to Biloela. The result of the election proved to be in the favour of the Murugappan family, as the coalition lost government. “We knew how much was riding on that election yesterday and in the end, we could go to bed last night knowing that they were safe,” says Fredricks. a social worker in Biloela.
Immediately after the result had been confirmed, Fredricks rang Priya Murugappan, and her husband Nades arrived shortly after from work during Scott Morrison’s concession speech. The couple was filled with joy at the result. “To get to that last night was so incredibly special,” Fredericks said. “We’ve never seen their smiles so big; we’ve never seen their faces look so relaxed – the toll of 20-plus years of trauma falling away as they actually finally processing that they are safe.”
The family has begun legal action regarding the issue; however, the new immigration minister can easily resolve it. Fredricks assured their confidence in the Labor party, who assured them that the family’s return to their home was a top priority, however the situation becomes more complicated, seeing the election defeat of the Labor party’s immigration spokesperson. A clear result is unlikely to be announced until Labor leader Anthony Albanese addresses the situation.
Until then, the family remains relieved, and hopeful for their future as free residents in Australia. Fredricks hopes that they can return in time for the Biloela Flourish multicultural festival in June. “I guess our first step is just getting those plane tickets,” she says, “We just want their feet back here in Bilo.”
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