'No case' for family's removal: NSW MP

Tiffanie Turnbull
·2-min read

There is no case for a Sri Lankan family beloved by their NSW community to be deported.

That is what former immigration lawyer and federal MP Pat Conaghan has said as he pressures his government to let the Udawatta family, living in his electorate of Cowper, to stay.

The family is facing removal from the country after husband, father and primary visa-holder Raj died of bowel cancer the day after his 50th birthday in September.

They are still grieving the loss of Mr Udawatta, and without federal intervention will soon be grieving the loss of the home and community they've created in Kempsey on the NSW mid-north coast.

"I am shocked. I can't understand what is happening for us," mother Florence Udawatta told the ABC's 7.30.

"As a mother, I have to be strong. I can't show my tears for my children because they are also going down when I am crying, so I want to be strong and tough."

The family has been an integral part of their church and school community since 2016, and are an immigration "success" story, locals told the ABC.

Ms Udawatta applied for temporary protection visas, but they were rejected less than a month after her husband died.

She has a month to appeal, or pack up her four children's lives and leave the country.

Nationals MP for Cowper Pat Conaghan said the family is part of the "Kempsey fabric" and their deportation must be stopped.

"Raj came and saw me earlier this year and advised me of the situation and I gave him my word that I would do everything possible if the worst case happened," he told ABC's Radio National.

"There is no case, in my opinion. There is no option, they must stay."

Mr Conaghan said he had been lobbying Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge on the family's behalf, and was hopeful he would intervene on compassionate grounds.

"I've already spoken to Minister Tudge, and he's certainly sympathetic to Florence, and the family's plight."

He denied his government had shown little compassion to families in similar cases in the past.

The Udawatta's position is very different to that of the Tamil family being housed on Christmas Island after being deported from central Queensland, he says.

"The Biloela family was a completely different set of circumstances. The simple facts were that they had arrived here in Australia illegally, which is the polar opposite to the Udawatta family," he said.

Mr Conaghan said the family has appealed the rejection of their protection visa, which will take between 12 and 18 months to consider.

If that fails, then the minister can intervene, he says.

"Raj was here on a valid visa, the family were doing everything to integrate to support themselves."

"I know we're a compassionate nation and I hope in the end that compassion comes through."