Immigration minister Alex Hawke has granted bridging visas to three members of the Murugappan family from Biloela.
In a statement on Wednesday, Hawke revealed he had exercised his power under section 195A of the Migration Act, granting the family members three-month bridging visas.
The visas, which can be dealt by a minister ‘if it is in the public interest to do so’, provide the Tamil-Australian family members with work and study rights.
“This decision allows three members of the family to reside in the Perth community on bridging visas while the youngest child’s medical care, and the family’s legal matters, are ongoing. The fourth family member’s visa status is unchanged,” Hawke said.
“The family will continue to have access to health care, support services, housing and schooling in the Perth community.”
The announcement has come a week after the family was allowed to reunite in Perth, where their youngest daughter, Tharnicaa, was being treated for sepsis and pneumonia. Tharnicaa has not been granted a bridging a visa.
The Murugappan family lived in the rural Queensland town of Biloela for four years until they were removed by Australian Border Force officials in 2018. They have been detained on Christmas Island since 2019.
The group that has been campaigning for the return of the family to Biloela, Home to Bilo, has welcomed the latest news. However, it noted that the family cannot leave Perth and return to Biloela without a visa for Tharnicaa.
“It is hoped that the entire family will soon be free to leave Perth and travel to Biloela. The family’s lawyer is making enquiries regarding Tharni’s visa status,” Home to Bilo said in a statement on Facebook.
“Today’s news is another huge step in the long journey home for Priya and her family, but still, there is no certain pathway home to Bilo. While we welcome Priya, Nades, and Kopika being granted bridging visas, we wonder what precisely is the minister’s objective in denying little Tharni one. This family must stay together, and they need to be back in Biloela as soon as humanly possible.
“We know just how many Australians hold this family in their hearts, and have helped get them to this moment today. Now, we need Mr Morrison and Mr Hawke to finally acknowledge that widespread support and end this long, painful saga for our dear friends.”