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Here to stay: Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seeker family tearfully welcomed to Australia after four years

After a long immigration battle and four years in detention, the Nadesalingam family returned to the town of Biloela after being taken from their home by Australian Border Force.

For four years, residents of Biloela protested their detention and attempted deportation in 2018. Their case had become a stark example of the harsh treatment of asylum seekers in Australia.

The family of 4 – Priya, Nades, Kopika and Tharnicaa – were greeted with cheers as they walked onto the tarmac in the outback community, as supporters of the Tamil family waved banners and “Welcome Home” signs.

As the family left Thangool airport on Friday, Priya got down on her knees and kissed the ground.

“I’m so happy,” Priya told the Guardian, quoting Priya. “I am starting a new life.”

She said she hoped their arrival would mark a new beginning for her family and her daughters.

“I felt like I was flying, I can’t describe the moment of landing in Bilo,” she said through a translator, according to News Nine.

“Landing here gives me a lot of hope and for my daughters. I hope I can give my daughters a better life and a better future. Words cannot describe how I feel,” she said.

The family moved to Perth last year after their daughter Tharnicaa contracted sepsis. As she needed urgent medical attention, three family members were granted one-year visas, but were forced to stay in Perth as Tharnicaa had to remain in detention.

In May, the family were granted bridging visas, allowing them to leave community detention in Perth and return to their home in Biloela. But their asylum status was still not guaranteed.

Nearly 600,000 people have signed Home to Bilo campaigner Angela Fredericks’ Change.org petition in support of the family, and more than 53,000 phone calls and emails have been made to Australian politicians by family supporters in across the country.

On Saturday, the family will attend Biloela’s multicultural Flourish Festival – which is expected to attract an additional 1,000 attendees to host the family home – before celebrating Tharnicaa’s fifth anniversary on Sunday.

(With agency contributions)

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Post expires at 12:34pm on Tuesday June 21st, 2022