A Sri Lankan Tamil asylum-seeker family detained on Christmas Island will remain there for at least two more months ahead of a Federal Court trial, the Australian Associated Press reported.
Sri Lankan couple Priya and Nades Murugappan, and their Australian-born daughters Kopika and Tharunicaa, are fighting federal Government attempts to deport the family.
Priya, Nades and Kopika have already been refused refugee status, but a Federal Court fight hinges on Tharunicaa and her right to apply for protection.
The family had settled in the Queensland country town of Biloela before being taken to detention in Melbourne in March 2018, then transferred to Christmas Island earlier this year.
A hearing is scheduled for two days in mid-to-late February and the family will remain in detention until the case is finalised.
Family friend Angela Fredericks spoke with the family over the phone on Saturday and said they’re “holding up as expected”.
“It was Nades birthday, so it’s always hard to wish someone happy birthday while they’re being held in detention and not being able to see their face,” Ms Fredericks said.
“Their major concern at the moment is keeping the girls busy over the break, as this is the last week before school holidays.”
Ms Fredericks said that both girls being granted permission to attend kindergarten out of the detention centre earlier this year was a massive victory.
She also expressed her concern about the family’s increased detachment from their community after their second Christmas away from Biloela.
“We’ve noticed an increased disconnection from them. We had a Christmas festival in the park singing carols and it’s that sort of family spark that they’re not having,” Ms Fredericks said.
“We sent them a packet from the town with some DVDs, books and things like that so that they try to get their minds occupied while they have this ongoing battle.”
The family’s next hearing is likely to be heard during the weeks beginning February 17 or 24, but the precise timing has not been finalised.
Justice Mark Moshinsky on Monday also made an order allowing lawyers for Tharunicaa to request documents about the case, such as internal departmental correspondence, be handed over to them.
After the hearing, immigration lawyer Carina Ford said the Tamil family were “doing OK” but remained isolated.
The United Nations has asked they be released from Christmas Island detention but the government won’t allow it.
Priya previously described the conditions as jail-like but said it was preferable to being returned to Sri Lanka.
Angela Fredericks told AAP that “there is plenty of room in Biloela”, arguing that releasing the family from detention would “save money from taxpayers and provide emotional wellbeing to the town.”
“This would be ending with just a signature. It’s more than ever that Scot Morrison being a Christian man could show it and let that family come home.”
The Australian government has previously said the family won’t be returning to mainland Australia while their case is being determined.