Priya and her husband Nadesalingam moved to the Queensland town of Biloela four years ago under a temporary bridging visa. The couple worked and were embraced by the close-knit community, giving birth to two Australian-born daughters during their time here.
But in March 2018, the family was forcibly removed from their home and taken to a Melbourne detention centre where they have remained for the past 17 months.
On Thursday evening, following government orders to finalise their deportation, the family was forcefully loaded onto a plane at Tullamarine airport intended to take them back to their native Sri Lanka.
Soon after however, the plane landed in Darwin with the family removed and given accommodation while their trial pends.
“They’re pretty traumatised as you can imagine but also very relieved to be still here,” former Biloela resident and a friend of the family’s Simone Cameron told AAP.
The social media campaign #HomeToBilo has been running for the past two years with supporters encouraging the federal government to grant the family reprieve.
I trust all the men of faith who have been aggressively prosecuting the value of life and preciousness of children for the past weeks while we debated reproductive healthcare reform in #NSWpol will be speaking out today to bring Priya, Nades and their girls #hometobilo
— Jenny Leong MP (@jennyleong) August 29, 2019
The Bilo family are currently in Darwin after a last minute injunction saw them removed from the plane.
Please support the Biloela community and Priya, Nades and their daughters this morning. #hometobilo
There are peaceful snap actions in Sydney and Melbourne, numbers to call pic.twitter.com/KvFbBVzgU8
— Sally Rugg (@sallyrugg) August 29, 2019
— Nic Holas (@nicheholas) August 29, 2019
Regardless of what court decides, remember Peter Dutton has the power to let this family stay. This family is loved and wanted here. They would only enrich our community and deserve to be safe. They’ve suffered enough, time for compassion and common sense to prevail. #hometobilo https://t.co/jRTtOopLrV
— Kon Karapanagiotidis (@Kon__K) August 29, 2019
This morning on Channel Nine, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton claimed the family were undeserving of the public outcry, and were not “owed protection” by Australia.
“I would like the family to accept that they are not refugees, they’re not owed protection by our country,” he said.
“They came here by boat and we’ve been very clear that they wouldn’t stay.”