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Youngest daughter of Biloela Tamil family released from Perth hospital

The youngest daughter of a Tamil asylum seeker family from Biloela has been discharged from hospital in Perth. 

Four-year-old Tharnicaa Murugappan left Perth Children’s Hospital over the weekend, almost two weeks after she was medically evacuated from Christmas Island with her mother, Priya. 

Supporters say she was diagnosed with a blood infection caused by untreated pneumonia, with health officials previously stating that she will need eight weeks of ongoing specialist care.

In a statement on Sunday, Priya thanked doctors for their help. 

“Thank you to [the] doctors who take care of Tharnicaa in hospital,” she said. “We hope [that] soon she is much better.”

The family of four will now reside in community detention in Perth, after a decision by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to transfer them from Christmas Island. 

But the longer-term future of the family remains uncertain as Mr Hawke has not indicated whether he will use his ministerial powers of discretion to lift the bar preventing the family from reapplying for a protection visa.

Supporters said Priya was anxious about entering a new form of detention, without knowing what would happen to the family after Tharnicaa’s ongoing treatment was complete.

“Please, we want [to] go back to Bilo. We [are] safe in Bilo,” she said. “My husband [can] work. My daughters have friends. Bilo is home.”

Father Nades and Tharnicaa Murugappan.

Father Nades and Tharnicaa Murugappan.


Family friend Angela Fredericks said she is concerned about the family’s mental and physical health. 

“In the coming days, we will remain by Priya and (father) Nades’ side as they try to settle their girls into yet another form of detention,” she said. 

“This is another chaotic disruption in these little girls’ lives. This latest form of detention is even more heartbreaking when we know they already have a safe, secure, familiar home in Biloela.”

Nades, Priya and Australian-born Tharnicaa and her sister, Kopika, have been in immigration detention for more than three years while a protracted legal battle over Tharnicaa’s right to apply for protection continues

The government has repeatedly said the family do not meet the criteria for a protection visa, after Nades and Priya arrived separately in Australia by boat in 2012 and 2013.

While their claims for asylum were assessed, they settled in the Queensland town of Biloela and welcomed their two daughters. 

Biloela community members have waged a long-running campaign to have the family returned to the town after they were taken into custody in March 2018.

The campaign continues to grow, with 26 Australian Anglican bishops signing an open letter on Friday urging the family’s release and the grant of visas to allow them to rebuild their lives. 

Protests were staged across Australia on Saturday calling for them to be allowed to return to Biloela. 

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