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The Murugappan Family #HomeToBilo Have Been Cleared To Return Home

It ends a nightmare four years for Nades, Priya, Kopika and Tharnicaa.

UPDATED Friday 27 May: The government announced that the Murugappan would be allowed to return home to Biloela on a bridging visa.

Acting Home Affairs Minister Jim Chalmers said he had spoken with the family and wished them well for their return.

“This decision will allow them to get ‘home to Bilo’, a big-hearted and welcoming Queensland town that has embraced this beautiful family,” he said.

Chalmers used his ministerial power (under section 195A of the Migration Act 1958) to allow the family to return home, remaining in the community that fought for them while they work towards the resolution of their immigration status.

Following Labor’s victory over the Liberal Party in the 2022 Australian Federal election, all eyes are on party leader and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to ensure he fulfills his pre-election promise of bringing the Murugappan family home to Biloela.

It’s been a four-year fight for the Tamil asylum seekers and the community of residents from Central Queensland, with Labor’s win effectively allowing them to stay permanently in Australia, or as #HomeToBilo campaigner Angela Fredricks describes it, ”20-plus years of trauma falling away as they actually finally processing that they are safe”.

Nades and Priya Murugappan arrived in Australia by boat in 2012 and 2013 respectively after fleeing Sri Lanka in fear of government persecution. The Murugappans have lived in Biloela since 2014, and welcomed two Australian-born daughters, Kopika and Tharnicaa in 2015 and 2017.

Source: @hometobilo

In March of 2018, the Australian Border Force forcibly removed them from their home and placed them in immigration detention first in Melbourne, then eventually to Christmas Island, effectively leaving them as displaced residents.

The Murugappans are currently held in a detention center in Perth after a last-minute injunction in 2019 delayed their deportation.

The federal election once again tied the family’s future with the outcome. Scott Morrison’s Coalition had ruled out allowing the family to stay in Australia, while Labor’s Anthony Albanese promised to use ministerial privileges to allow them to return to Biloela on a bridging visa. 

Priya Murugappan is one of marie claire’s 2022 Woman Of The Year (Credit: Photography: Frances Andrijich)

Speaking on ABC Radio Brisbane on the Monday after Labor’s win at the federal election, Chalmers said he is expecting a briefing regarding the matter this week. “Biloela is a big-hearted, warm, welcoming town and the sooner we can get that beautiful family home to Bilo, the better,” he added.

The woman of Bilo are one of marie claire’s 2022 Woman Of The Year

Home To Bilo campaigners anticipate that the family could arrive back in the community by mid-June, in time to celebrate Pryia and Nades’ youngest daughter Tharnicaa’s 5th birthday.

“She has had every birthday in detention, so it would be amazing for her fifth birthday to actually get to celebrate her freedom…a huge thing for a little five year year old,” Fredericks told SBS News.

She shared the news to the Murugappans that they would be returning home on the evening of election night. “To get to that last night was so incredibly special, we’ve never seen their smiles so big, we’ve never seen their faces look so relaxed,” explained Fredericks to The Guardian.

As for Fredericks next move? “I guess our first step is just getting those plane tickets. We just want their feet back here in Bilo.”

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