A crowd of dozens of supporters holding banners and balloons chanted “let them stay” as Nades Murugappan and his daughter Kopica arrived in Perth under the watchful eye of border officials on Tuesday evening.
There were no high-fives or emotional embraces at Perth Airport as the pair touched down on West Australian soil at 5pm, having been flown from Christmas Island on a government charter jet that landed in a private hanger.
Latasha Jesuthasan, 5, was among the supporters who welcomed the Murugappan family at Perth Airport on Tuesday. Credit:Sharon Smith
Mr Hawke is yet to make a decision about whether any of the family members can reapply for visas to stay in Australia but supporters see their release into the community as a step forward.
Family friend and Home to Bilo campaign organiser Angela Fredericks said the ultimate goal was to return the family to Biloela and hoped community detention in WA would only be temporary.
“This family fled war and conflict, they then lived for four or five years in a small rural town. They’ve spent three years in detention under guard and now they’re now being released into a city,” she said.
“We are all terrified for them and I know they are quite apprehensive as well. Where are we actually looking after the wellbeing of this family? Because I am not seeing it.”
She said the minister appeared to have linked the community detention to the continuing legal action, but the courts didn’t have the power to assess the merits of the family’s refugee claims.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and WA Premier Mark McGowan joined calls for the family to be moved back to Queensland.
“The decision to repatriate Tharnicca and the Murugappan family in Perth is welcome but overdue.
For too long this family has had to endure years of anxiety and uncertainty,” Mr McGowan said.
“The federal government should use its exemption powers to listen to the community and permanently end this painful saga.”
Mr Albanese also rubbished claims by the government allowing the family to stay would jeopardise Australia’s border security.
“This little girl is not a threat to our national sovereignty. And you can be tough on borders without being weak on humanity,” he told 6PR’s Liam Bartlett.
“This has cost tens of millions of dollars. The idea that you fly a family to Christmas Island and leave them there … at an enormous cost for those facilities. Think about what the opportunity cost is, what that money could have been spent on.”
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