The Australian federal government is refusing to comment on where a Tamil asylum-seeker family have been relocated amid reports they were transported to Christmas Island overnight, The New Daily reported.
Friends and supporters issued a statement on Saturday morning saying they were “devastated” to hear the Bilo family – so-called after the central Queensland town they had been living in – had arrived about 2am at a detention centre on the island located northwest of Australia.
“Supporters had lost contact with the family for large periods of time on Friday. The family’s phones had been taken from them and they were only allowed to make a few calls throughout the day,” the statement read.
“There was no communication at any time with the family’s lawyers about the Department’s plans to put them in detention at Christmas Island. Supporters are fearful because Priya has not been supplied with blood pressure medication which was prescribed on Wednesday.”
The Department of Home Affairs would not comment on the “whereabouts” of the family, reported the ABC.
“As this matter is before the courts it would be inappropriate to comment,” a spokesperson for the department told the ABC.
Moving detainees without warning isn’t unusual, but “the transfer to Christmas Island is not normal”, the family’s solicitor Carina Ford said.
“It definitely makes our job harder and it’s disappointing,” she said, describing new logistical issues as “frustrating”.
She is now waiting to hear back from lawyers for federal Immigration Minister David Coleman about how the family’s legal team will be able to have access to their clients, including to get documents signed.
They had arranged lawyers in Darwin to assist with that over the weekend.
Priya, her husband Nadesalingam and their Australian-born children Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2, had been held at a Darwin military base.
Priya was able to make contact with family and friends when they arrived at Christmas Island.
“My children have been separated from their world,” she said.
“This is the second flight in as many days under the cover of darkness, taking this family even further away from the support of the community that loves them,” family friend Rebekah Holt said.
The move comes after a judge issued a last-minute injunction to halt their deportation from Melbourne to Sri Lanka on Thursday night.
The family landed in Darwin after the order was made and were taken off the plane.
On Friday, there was another glimmer of hope.
A Melbourne court ordered the government not to expel the youngest child until a further hearing on Wednesday.
The family’s legal team say only Tharunicaa is protected under the ruling because her claims for asylum protections have never been assessed.
The rest of her family could be expelled as their legal avenues have been exhausted but Ms Ford said Australia would be condemned if it split up the family.