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Tamil Family Lose Appeal To Stay In Australia, Their Toddlers Still In Detention

There are fears the family's mental health is deteriorating and the Federal Circuit Court decision was another blow.

What you need to know
  • A Tamil couple and their two young girls were taken from their home by Australia Border Force Officials
  • The family is being detained in a Melbourne immigration centre for allegedly overstaying bridging visa
  • Family friends say detention centre guards won't let them bring to dolls for the children who have no other kids to play with

A court has rejected a deportation appeal by a Tamil couple and their two children, despite a central Queensland community lobbying the government for the family to stay.

Asylum seekers Priya, Nadesalingam and their two daughters Kopika, 3, and Tharunicaa, aged 1, remain at a Melbourne detention centre after their latest bid for freedom was rejected on Thursday.

Australian-born sisters Kopika and baby Tharunicaa Image: Tamil Refugee Council

Family friend and Biloela community member Simone Cameron told ten daily the family is "devastated" and that she's worried about the welfare of the little girls.

"They haven't been around any other children for 108 days. The three-year-old girl seems frustrated and not herself... I try and take my daughter with me when I can so they have someone to play with," she said.

Cameron visited the family on Tuesday and brought toy dolls for the toddler and infant to play with.

"The guards wouldn't let me give the dolls to the girls, even for the duration of the visit. In the visitor's room there are old broken blocks and I just wanted to make them smile, instead I walked out so upset, just about crying," she said.

Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation. Image: Supplied

Cameron said the family's mental health is deteriorating and the Federal Circuit Court decision was another blow.

"They are finding it increasingly difficult to occupy the children and are we are worried about the harm this is doing to them. That's why we are urging Minister Dutton to intervene and do something about this."

In her judgement, Justice Caroline Kirton found Pryia's initial assessment by the Immigration Assessment Authority, which denied refugee status, was properly conducted.

Justice  Kirton also mentioned that Nades returned to Sri Lanka three times during the civil war and there was no evidence that his relatives in Sri Lanka were at risk from authorities.

She also that the Sri Lankan civil war ended more than eight years ago.

Central Queensland's Biloela community and supporters have rallied around the family since their detention in March, with a petition carrying more than 103,000 signatures calling for their right to stay.

Last month, two Biloela residents used the ABC's Q&A program to ask Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to intervene.

Priya arrived in Australia in 2013 and her husband in 2012; they met and married in Australia. They settled in Biloela on a bridging visa and their Australian-born daughters have never left the country.

A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said: "The Department is aware of the Federal Circuit Court’s decision."

"This family’s case has been comprehensively assessed, over many years, by the Department, various tribunals and courts. They have consistently been found not to meet Australia’s protection obligations.

"Foreign nationals who do not hold a valid visa are expected to depart voluntarily to their country of citizenship. Those unwilling to depart voluntarily will be subject to detention and removal from Australia."

Nadesalingam’s application for protection had been rejected by Australian authorities, and his appeals exhausted.

The family's lawyer Kajaliny Ranjith told ten daily the fight isn't over. 

“I have instructions to appeal to the Federal court. We are hopeful we’ll succeed at the federal level,” she said. 

They now have 21 days to appeal against the judgement.