Refugee Action Collective (Vic)

Free the refugees! Let them land, let them stay!

Archives March 2018


Refugee Action Coalition



Although court documents had been lodged in the Federal Circuit Court for the Tamil family, and a directions hearing scheduled for early May, last night (Tuesday) the government attempted to remove the Tamil family of four from Australia.

 Concerns escalated in the hours from late Tuesday afternoon, when communication with the family who were being held in family compound of the MITA (Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation), was suddenly lost.

A hurried phone call from the plane that was carrying the family alerted lawyers and supporters that the family was being removed from Australia.

The family had been placed on a plane carrying up to 25 other Tamils being removed (some forcibly) to Sri Lanka. The family of four were taken off the plane, once the government understood there were moves to call an urgent court hearing late Tuesday night.

“It is astonishing that the government should have attempted to remove this family,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, “The government knew that court documents had been lodged.  They knew that there was intense community interest and concern.  They wanted to try and shut that down.

“It looks like a blatant attempt to put the family beyond reach of the community or legal action.  The government has shown no concern for the safety of the family or the concerns of the tens of thousands who have signed the petition calling for family to be returned to Biloela.”

In two days, over 58,000 people have signed an online petition; and the petition is growing by the minute.

“The plight of this family has shone a light of the stark reality of the government anti-refugee policies.  They wanted to ride rough shod over the rights of the family and the concerns of the Biloela community.  But more and more people are becoming g aware of the human costs of the government’s policies to the refugees and asylum seekers and to the wider community. Biloela is not buying the government’s fear-mongering ; they want the Tamil family back in Biloela.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 417 275 713


Refugee Action Coalition



Just seven single men comprise the sixth group of refugees, who will leave Nauru today (Sunday, 11 March) to be resettled in the US.  (Photos attached).

The seven refugees include Afghans, Pakistani and two Rohingyans.

Altogether 146 refugees from Nauru have been resettled in the US, since the scheme began in September 2016 (full list below), leaving hundreds in limbo on Manus and Nauru.

Meanwhile the situation on Nauru deteriorates by the day. In the past week, another three people were transferred from Nauru to Australia because of debilitating mental health issues created by their detention on Nauru.

There is also growing disquiet at the horrendous conditions in the family camp (RPC3) – where asylum seekers and refugees are still ‘housed’ in mouldy tents. There are around 50 children still living in such tents that are a health hazard, when there are units lying empty on the island.

In PNG, last minutes legal action is underway to seek court orders to prevent the removal of Bangladeshi asylum seekers from Manus Island who have been singled out for forced deportation.

“While the US deal drags out over months, the government has admitted that up to 500 refugees and asylum seekers could be left on just on Manus Island, regardless of the deal,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“After almost five years, the government has no arrangements to resettle all those who have been brutalised by offshore detention. The US deal is no solution and New Zealand is only offering places for 150 people.

“It’s time that all the asylum seekers and refugees were brought to Australia where they can get the care and protection they need.”

Rallies around Australia are planned for Palm Sunday, 25 March to call on the government to evacuate Manus and Nauru – and to bring all refugees and asylum seekers to Australia.

There has been support around Australia for Adam and Ned’s Big Walk for Refugees, that began in Sydney on 24 February,  and will end today (Sunday 11 March) with a regatta at Lake Burley Griffin at 1.15pm (AEST) .

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

US Resettlement numbers:

 (i) Manus – (a) 27 people left PNG on 27 September 2017; (b) 40 left on 23 January 2018; (c) 18 left on 13 Feb

(ii) Nauru (a) 27 people on 27 September 2017; (b) 22 left on 11 February, 2018. (c) 35 on 18 Feb; (d) Sunday 25 February: 26 refugees, including two Sri Lankan families with three babies; (e) 4 March, 29 refugees (21 adults, 8 children), mostly single men (Afghan, Pakistan, Rohingyan, Sri Lanka), but two Sri Lankan families,  one Rohingyan and one Afghan family ( 8 children altogether) ; (f) Sunday 11 March: Seven single men (Afghan, Pakistani and two Rohingyans.



The Tamil Refugee Council has condemned an early morning raid in which a refugee family was given just ten minutes to gather belongings before being flown to Melbourne and detained at the Broadmeadows detention centre (MITA – Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation).

Priya, her husband Nadesalingam and their daughters – 9-month-old Dharuniga and 2-year-old Kopiga, born in Australia – were woken last Monday at their home in Biloela, central Queensland, by scores of police, Border Force officers and Serco guards.

A neighbour who witnessed the raid described it as something out of a Hollywood movie. Hearing her friend and neighbour crying uncontrollably, she went to give comfort. Police didn’t allow her to speak to Priya and ordered her to leave the property.

Priya’s bridging visa expired on 4 March. She was working with a case officer on having it renewed. Nadesalingam and Priya married in 2014 after arriving in 2012 and 2013. The family settled in Biloela several years ago.

“At 5am they came and knocked on the door,” Priya said, speaking over the phone from MITA, through a Tamil Refugee Council translator. “They said we were being taken to Melbourne detention centre. I grabbed a bag of clothes but we didn’t have time to pack anything else. We were given ten minutes.”

Priya and Nadesalingam were put into separate vans and driven to Gladstone Airport. The children travelled with Priya but, despite their distress and their mother’s pleas, were not allowed to sit with her.

“I asked the guards, ‘If it were your children would you treat them this way, or is it only because we are refugees?’,” Priya said. “I was humiliated. I was made to feel worthless. I will never forget that experience.”

Once detained in Melbourne, Priya says Border Force officers told them that if they didn’t sign voluntary deportation documents, they would be denied access to a phone and she and her husband would be separated and deported to Sri Lanka.

“We are in house arrest here. We have to stay in our room. The children can’t go outside. There are three guards outside the room. We are living as prisoners,” Priya said. “The children are distressed and disoriented. They don’t understand what is happening. My daughter is asking to go to her friend’s house in Biloela.”

They begged not to be deported, but on Tuesday afternoon relented and signed the documents. Make no mistake, if they are removed, it will not be voluntary – they will be returned under duress to a country in which they have a well-founded fear of persecution.

Residents in Biloela have been left stunned, confused and devastated by the raid. The family was taken without warning.

“They have a lot of support in the community,” a friend in the town told the Tamil Refugee Council. “They were looking to enrol Kopiga into the kindergarten. She turns three soon. Priya is a dedicated mum doing everything she could to help the kids. Nadesalingam is well-regarded at the meatworks.

“Everyone is shocked and outraged about the way they just came and swooped in and took the whole family. People are just appalled that this is happening in Australia, that people can be treated this way.

“Everyone who had anything to do with this family wrote letters to the minister for immigration before Christmas asking for the family to be granted permanent protection. We can’t understand why this would happen.”

The raid comes just weeks after another Tamil man was deported to Sri Lanka. He is being harassed and intimidated by the security forces. The Tamil Refugee Council is very concerned that Priya and her family face imminent deportation to the same fate.

Amnesty International’s latest Annual Report, published on 22 February, noted of the situation in Sri Lanka:

“Reports of torture and other ill-treatment in detention continued … [T]he Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka said that it had continued to document widespread incidents of violence against detainees, including torture and other ill-treatment, which it described as ‘routine’ and practised throughout the country, mainly by police.”

The Tamil Refugee Council is calling on the Australian government to return Priya, Nadesalingam, Dharuniga and Kopiga to their home in Biloela, and to give Priya and Nadesalingam permanent protection so they can continue building their lives and raising their children in peace.

Media contacts:

Aran Mylvaganam 0410 197 814

Ben Hillier 0430 453 503