Former Socceroo Fighting for Tamil Family to Stay

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

Former Socceroo Craig Foster has joined the fight to keep a Tamil asylum-seeker family in Australia and says their health is suffering in detention.

After campaigning to free refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi from a Thai prison, the retired international will help present a 189,000-signature petition calling for the family’s release to federal Immigration Minister David Coleman on Friday.

That’s if supporters of the family from the tiny central Queensland town of Biloela don’t manage to catch the minister earlier on the election trail.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has also vowed to reopen the case if he wins Saturday’s election, saying community sentiment matters.

The family – Priya, her husband Nadesalingam and Australian-born daughters Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 23 months, were popular, integrated members of the Biloela community where they lived for four years until detained.

The couple, who had come to Australia separately by boat without visas, didn’t qualify for refugee status despite numerous appeals.

Now, after 14 months in a Melbourne detention centre, they face imminent deportation after the High Court on Tuesday denied their final bid to stay.

Other supporters rallied in Melbourne on Wednesday to highlight the family’s value to the community and concerns about returning them to where Priya’s ex-fiance was burned to death.

Foster told AAP he was committed to changing the immigration policy to better reflect the basic rights of vulnerable people, in line with international legal standards.

“Other countries, like our neighbours across the ditch, have demonstrated that a country is perfectly capable of caring for people and the Australians I know and love want us to take the lead in this area, not keep bringing up the rear,” he said.

“The family has made a social contribution already, which is what’s asked of them; the kids are part of the local school and unsurprisingly are suffering health problems in detention.

“Does Australia really need to be a place that detains two young girls behind barbed wire, without upholding their right to education, and to deny their community values members and for what purpose other than meanness of spirit?”

Mr Coleman, whose office declined to comment, holds his southwestern Sydney seat by 1.4 per cent.


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