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Hundreds to rally in support of Tamil family facing deportation

Snap protests and vigils have been organised across the country for Sunday.

In Melbourne, over 400 people have clicked ‘attending’ on Facebook for a rally to held outside the State Library, while another thousand people have clicked ‘interested’.

Speakers will include Greens leader Richard Di Natale and a Trades Hall Council representative, according to the Facebook event.

In Sydney, a vigil has been organised at Martin Place. Organisers urged attendees to “help us express our love for this family visually, with signs, flags, cardboard cockatoos – whichever way feels right to you – but without speakers, music or chants.”

A growing chorus of voices have expressed support for the family, including conservatives like Alan Jones and Nationals MP and former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce.

Mr Joyce said, “The people of Biloela seem to be pretty enthused about keeping this family there. I think we should also be listening to them.”

“A family that’s not making the traffic more difficult in Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane, that are working in a regional area doing jobs that other people may not be willing to do, that are well supported by their local community.

Labor leaders have also urged the government to reconsider.

However, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has refused to budge on his department’s decision to deport them.

Lawyers for the family secured a last-minute reprieve early on Friday, with a court injunction forcing the charter flight bound for Sri Lanka to land in Darwin, preventing deportation until this Wednesday. The decision was based on the argument the youngest daughter’s case had not been properly assessed by the government.

The family has had their asylum claims denied despite appeals that went all the way to the High Court. They were detained in March 2018 after Priya’s bridging visa expired.

The charter flights being used to move the family are provided by a company called Skytraders, which has a three-year contract with the Department of Home Affairs worth $78 million.

The flights around Australia, using a large passenger jet, are conservatively estimated to cost tens of thousands of dollars. A flight to Colombo in Sri Lanka would likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Tamil Refugee Council spokesman Aran Mylvaganam said on Saturday that Priya was being treated on Christmas Island for injuries she suffered on Thursday night while being forcibly removed from detention in Melbourne onto a plane.

“The children are constantly crying. Kopika is feeling very lonely, and they are the only refugees on Christmas Island at the moment,” he said.

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