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Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce

'Biloela' family puts detention in spotlight 

We are in refugee week and the plight of the Murugappan family, forcibly taken from Bileola in Queensland to Christmas Island three years ago, has focused us in prayer and solidarity with all those experiencing Australia’s closed immigration detention and the thousands living in our community on temporary visas, their lives in limbo and in mental anguish, some for 8 years. 

Now reunited in Perth, the Murugappan family are released from closed detention that involves constant physical supervision and importantly can live in their new community and live a more normal life with school and medical care available for the girls and work rights for the parents after Minister for Immigration, Alex Hawke used his powers to make a residence determination. 

As the Kaldor Centre and the Australian Human Rights Commission have repeatedly advocated to the Government, Australia’s highly securitized immigration detention network is unhealthy, mentally and physically for detainees and especially harmful to children. 

It is a Gospel imperative to protect those at risk in our world and to welcome the stranger. Advocacy and refugee and asylum seeker support by the NCCA’s Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce (ACRT) is an expression of our faith and based on the Christian values of compassion, generosity, and hospitality. We acknowledge all people as equal in the sight of God and seek to respond to the calling to love neighbour as self, in practical ways.

The Minister for Immigration has the powers that could allow the family freedom of movement within Australia and hence return to Biloela where they have been part of and contributing to community life. Indeed the Minister could grant the family permanent visas. Our prayers are needed for all those living with the uncertainty of temporary visas in Australia and an end to closed immigration detention.

  • Light a candle at 7pm on Saturday 26 June and hold a vigil for those millions of people around the world and the thousands in Australia that are far from home, seeking a permanent place of refuge and safety.
  • Write a letter to the Minister for Immigration supporting the ACRT’s three points for change. Better still offer your community as one ready and willing to welcome people seeking asylum and refugees in Australia and support them to settle permanently and embark on a new life.

At the simplest level, the ACRT is calling on the Australian Government to:

♦ Conduct fair and timely assessment of claims for refugee status (putting resources into fair and timely assessment of claims and not into the exorbitant, unnecessary and harmful costs of detention).

♦ Support people seeking asylum to live in the community with adequate income and access to health care during the assessment of their claims (if they are unable to find work to support themselves.)

♦ Introduce community sponsorship of refugees as a new mechanism in Australia to provide safety and protection for those seeking refuge.  


The Anglican Primate speaks out on behalf of the Murugappan Family of Biloela

Catholic Bishop Michael McCarthy speaks out on behalf of the Murugappan Family of Biloela

Our Networks

Kaldor Centre

The ‘Biloela family’ now: Community detention explained 

The ‘Biloela family’ was released into community detention – what is it and how does it fit into Australia’s asylum system?   17 June, 2021 By Sherine Al Shallah, Kaldor Centre (unsw.edu.au)  

What is community detention, and how does it fit into Australia’s larger immigration detention regime? Do other countries do it? Are other alternatives better for the community and the people seeking asylum? And, most of all, what’s next for the Murugappan family? Read it now. 


JRS Australia and Vinnies NSW Policy Briefs, June 2021

Keeping refugee advocacy alive - new policy briefs on current issues

Five new policy briefs (created by JRS Australia and Vinnies NSW) on the key issues facing people seeking asylum in Australia. This also includes the three key issues that 150 Days of Action is focused on. They contain the latest information, statistics, and recommendations, which can utilised in informing your work. 

The link to the policy briefs is here, and also attached below. Feel free to share them far and wide. 


In our Churches' Media

Eureka Street

Campaigning for Afghan women's rights by Hava Rezaie 22 June 2021 

An article by Hava Rezaie, who is an incredible leader with lived experience, and is doing important work on the ground within the Hazara community. In it, she writes powerfully about the challenges of family separation:  

"These kinds of unprovoked atrocities drive Hazaras to seek protection in countries such as Australia. Yet, here they face different challenges — many have faced years in detention or in the community, waiting for their claims for protection to be heard and processed. The uncertainty and prolonged separation from parents, children, grandparents, and siblings is profoundly crippling." 


Keeping refugee advocacy alive by Andrew Hamilton 17 June 2021     

Andrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.

In the cruel world of the nineteenth century Industrial Revolution, English poet Arthur Hugh Clough wrote an ironic version of the Ten Commandments as practiced in Great Britain. The Fifth Commandment was: 'Thou shalt not kill, but needs not strive/Officiously to keep alive.' ....

'Keeping alive the images of refugees, too, may maintain our hope against hope that when the national mood swings from suspicion of outsiders to a more hospitable outlook, possibilities might open.'  

Main image below: Tharnicaa Murugappan in a hospital bed with her sister Kopika (Supplied/AAP)

The Guardian: Most of Biloela family given bridging visas  Wednesday 23 June

The immigration minister, Alex Hawke, said he had used his powers under the Migration Act to grant members of the family three-month bridging visas which provide work and study rights.


Under section 195A a minister can intervene to grant a person a visa if it is in the public interest to do so.

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.

The family will continue to have access to health care, support services, housing and schooling in the Perth community. 

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