The Australian Federal Government has been ordered to pay $206,000 in legal fees for a two-year-old Tamil girl who has been embroiled in a high-profile legal battle to stay in Australia with her family.
Priya, Nades and their Australian-born daughters, four-year-old Kopika and two-year-old Tharunicaa, had been living in Biloela, in central Queensland, until they were taken to immigration detention in Melbourne in March 2018.
The family have remained in detention at Christmas Island since August 2019.
The Tamil family has fought and lost numerous court battles to remain in Australia, saying they were in fear of persecution if they were returned to Sri Lanka.
Three of the family members have exhausted their legal avenues and the Federal Government has maintained that they are not genuine asylum seekers.
The Federal Government has now been ordered to pay the costs of Tharunicaa’s application to the Federal Court.
The family’s lawyer Carina Ford said that case involved “an enormous amount of discovery, various applications and a significant amount of barristers’ work”.
“What is a positive sign is that we’ve been awarded costs rather than have to go [and do] further work to try and have to agree on costs,” Ms Ford said.
Angela Fredericks, a Biloela resident and a long-time advocate for the family, said up until now legal fees had been paid by the family’s supporters in Biloela and around the country.
“So getting this money … what that means is that we can ensure that our lawyers can continue to be paid,” she said.
While the $206,000 in legal costs have been awarded to Tharunicaa, it is still unclear what will happen to the family’s bid to stay in Australia.
Their legal team is pushing for Tharunicaa’s original asylum bid to now be assessed again.
“We would say that the original [request] should now be considered. And any international protection assessment should be given procedural fairness, which it wasn’t last time,” Ms Ford said.
“It’s difficult for me to give an exact answer on that because, in many ways, it’s in the hands of the [Minister for Immigration David Coleman] to determine that.
“At this stage, I can’t say how confident I am.”
Ms Fredericks said advocates were viewing the last legal decision as “a win”.
“So for us, just the fact that it means that we’ve still got some avenues here,” Ms Fredericks said.
The Minister and the Department of Home Affairs have been contacted for comment.
Ms Ford said the family was staying strong on Christmas Island and was “fully across the legal issues”.
“But I will add though they are finding it increasingly difficult being detained,” she said.
“The length of time that anybody is detained for it does create further issues.”
Ms Ford and advocates for the family have long argued that the Minister should exercise ministerial privilege and grant the family protection in Australia.
The case has seen significant attention under the banner #HomeToBilo and the Government has so far not changed its position on the case.
There is still the chance that either the family’s legal team or the Federal Government could challenge the outcomes of the Federal Court decision from earlier this month. (Courtesy ABC News)