Vigils for Biloela family, appeal to PM

Andi YuAAP
Supporters have marked three years of detention for the Biloela family held on Christmas Island.
Camera IconSupporters have marked three years of detention for the Biloela family held on Christmas Island.

Supporters across Australia have called on the prime minister to free the Biloela family held on Christmas Island, during vigils marking three years of detention.

Family friend and long-time campaigner Angela Fredericks said since a 25-person vigil in the central Queensland town on Friday morning, subsequent vigils around the country have fed a sense of momentum.

There have been four immigration ministers since Priya, Nades and their daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa were taken from their home more than 1000 days ago.

Ms Fredericks is no longer appealing to the federal government's sense of compassion to bring the family home, but to its common sense about the facts of the case and to its hip pocket.

"This money could go to such better use, but at the moment it's being used to cause trauma to four innocent people," she told AAP.

"I honestly think the government's running out of excuses."

Ms Fredericks speaks on the phone to Priya and Nades and their girls once or twice a week.

They are exhausted and detention has taken a massive toll on their mental and physical health, she says.

Kopika is just old enough to remember her life in Biloela and repeatedly asks when she can go back.

"We say, we are going to get you home and we talk about all the things we're going to do when we're together again," Ms Fredericks said.

Tharnicaa is too young to know any other life, which is "a whole different sort of wrong", she said.

Outside Sydney Town Hall on Friday evening, Labor senator Kristina Keneally said the Biloela family had won unexpected supporters, such as broadcaster Alan Jones and former prime minister Tony Abbott.

"It seems to me the only three people in Australia who are unmoved are Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison and Alan Tudge," she told the large crowd.

Addressing Mr Tudge, the immigration minister, she said: "You have the power under law. One signature to bring this sorry saga to an end today."

The first vigil was at 5am in Biloela to mark the time the family's home was raided, followed by supporters in cities and towns around Australia. A final vigil will be held on Christmas Island by locals in support of the family.

The family and their lawyers have been involved in a protracted court battle based on Tharnicaa's right to apply for a protection visa.

Last month the full bench of the Federal Court rejected an appeal by the federal government over an earlier ruling by Justice Mark Mochinsky, which found Tharnicaa was denied procedural fairness in making a protection visa application.

Ms Fredericks said the court process showed "the inadequacies of Australia's immigration system".

"A court can judge that fair procedure hasn't been made, and yet the courts still actually have no power to make any calls on the case. It all still comes down to an individual bureaucrat making the (visa) decision," she said.

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