Asylum seeker family removed ‘without warning’ at dawn in central Queensland, Tamil Refugee Council says
An asylum seeker couple and their two Australian-born children were taken from their central Queensland home and flown to the Broadmeadows detention centre in Melbourne, the Tamil Refugee Council (TRC) says.
The TRC said Australian Border Force officers, police and Serco guards visited a Biloela home at dawn last week, taking the husband and wife from Sri Lanka and their two Australia-born children into custody.
Nadesalingam and Priya, and their children aged two years and nine months, have lived in Biloela for several years.
Biloela locals have taken to social media to try and bring the family back, with Nadesalingam reportedly working at the Biloela meatworks.
TRC spokesman Ben Hillier has condemned the early morning visit.
Mr Hillier said the action was heartless.
“To be whisked away like this without any warning beggar’s belief that the Australian Government could be so callous in its actions, could be so inhumane in its treatment of a family that is raising their children, who were both born in this country, in such a way,” he said
“Priya’s husband was separated from his wife and children and Priya, in her van, was separated from her children and not allowed to sit with them, despite the children being obviously distressed,” Mr Hillier said.
The ABC understands there was an issue because Priya wanted to hold her baby in the car, but the children needed to be placed into car seats and Nadesalingam travelled in separate vehicle because they could not all fit in the one car.
“The visit came just a day after their bridging visa expired, but the couple was told an extension would be sent, Mr Hillier said.
It is understood their visas expired between January and February.
Family don’t meet Australia’s protection obligations
In a statement, the Department of Home Affairs said the family’s case had been comprehensively assessed over many years but they had consistently been found not to meet Australia’s protection obligations.
The department said all detention and removal operations were carried out in a way that ensured the safety and security of detainees.
It said appropriate consideration had been given to the needs of any children involved.
Neighbour witnessed removal
The family’s neighbour, Maricar Gruspe, said she had never seen anything like that before.
“Early morning, around maybe six o’clock because my husband is going to work, and then I just grab the key because he is going and then I saw two cars, a police car over there and lots of people and I said ‘Oh, what’s happening over there’,” she said.
“One police officer came to us here and said that their visa is expired and they need to leave here and that’s it.
“Then after that the police officer [went] … next door over there.
“The wife is crying out loud and I feel sad, because you know the feeling when you stay here and then suddenly they said that ‘You need to move, go back to your place’ or something like that.
“They are friendly but we don’t talk too much — just say ‘Good morning’ and say ‘Hi’.”
Ms Gruspe said it was sad, but it had not been an aggressive situation.
“The police officers are all friendly over there waiting for them,” she said.
People of Biloela express ‘dismay, confusion’
Mr Hillier said the couple was not allowed access to a telephone and were told they would be separated unless they signed deportation document in Melbourne.
“This was a family that was known, this is a family that was liked — loved — by their neighbours, and they’ve been picked up by an early morning raid and taken.”
Mr Hillier said the council would seek an injunction to try to prevent the family’s deportation.
“A lawyer who’s been engaged and we’re attempting an injunction firstly on any moves to deport the family, or also to ensure the visa process is looked at again so that consideration can be made to allow the family to return to their home [to Biloela],” he said.
The family remains in custody in Melbourne.