Four years on, the Biloela family is home

·2-min read

After four years of detention centres, court challenges and a major medical scare, a family of four Tamil asylum seekers who captured the nation's hearts has arrived home.

There were cheers, tears and dancing as more than 1500 days of hope and frustration erupted among waiting supporters when Priya, Nades and their daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa touched down.

The family shared a hug on the tarmac of Thangool Airport near Biloela on Friday afternoon, and the two girls waved to the crowd who clapped and cheered while holding signs and streamers.

Priya blew a kiss to the friends who have fought for this moment since the family was first detained in March 2018.

"Me and my family are very happy," she said as she talked about starting a new life in her old community.

Speaking through a translator, Priya said she had a lot of hope for her girls' future, and asked the government for certainty on living in Australia permanently.

Priya also spoke on behalf of other refugees after her family's high profile case, addressing the federal government directly.

"Please give some certainty ... for all other refugees, and let them have a peaceful life," she said.

She described the treatment in detention as inhuman.

"We were treated very badly and my children were affected mentally and physically ... we had a really hard life and I hope that nobody goes through that," she said.

Nearly 600,000 people signed Home to Bilo campaigner Angela Frederick's petition in support of the family, and more than 53,000 phone calls and emails were made and sent to Australian politicians.

For now, the family's priority is to catch up on more than four years of missed hugs and conversations with friends in Biloela.

Their return coincides with the Banana Shire's Flourish Multicultural Festival on Saturday and Tharnicaa's fifth birthday on Sunday.

She was nine months old when her family was first placed in an immigration detention centre in Melbourne.

The former coalition government tried to deport the family on a commercial flight from Melbourne to Sri Lanka in 2019, but after an 11th hour court injunction the plane landed in Darwin.

The four were then held at the Christmas Island detention centre for two years until then immigration minister Alex Hawke moved them to community detention in Perth in mid-2021.

His change-of-heart came after Tharnicaa was medically evacuated with a suspected blood infection.

Following the change of government in May, interim Home Affairs Minister Jim Chalmers gave the family permission to return to Biloela on bridging visas.

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