BOND: Biloela woman Marie Austin visited Priya recently at the Broadmeadows Detention Centre in Melbourne.
BOND: Biloela woman Marie Austin visited Priya recently at the Broadmeadows Detention Centre in Melbourne.

15 months on: Concerns grow for detained Bilo family

ON HER fourth birthday today Kopika won't see her friends at a Biloela park or be gifted with new toys.

Instead, it's hoped a nationwide fundraising campaign will raise enough money to make a video of her and her sister Tharunicaa, 2, singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, go viral.

The Queensland-born daughters of Tamil asylum seekers Priya and Nades have been in a Melbourne detention centre with their parents since March 2018.

The video pleads for the Federal Government to release the family to Biloela, which was their home from 2013 after Priya and Nades escaped the Sri Lankan civil war.

Friend Simone Cameron is behind the video initiative, and she says if she raises $17,156 she can share the video with 315,000 voters in marginal electorates every day for 14 days.

It comes as concern is mounting for the daughters' welfare after pictures emerged of Tharunicaa's blackened and decaying teeth.

It's believed the dental issues were caused by poor diet and a vitamin D deficiency.

Her mother, Priya, told The Guardian that the two-year-old was in pain and couldn't eat.


Kopika, 3, and Tharunicaa, 1, have been in a Melbourne detention centre since March with their parents Priya and Nades.
Kopika, 3, and Tharunicaa, 1, have been in a Melbourne detention centre with their parents Priya and Nades.

"For a week she couldn't eat anything she had to bite, I had to bite anything I gave her," she said.

"Last week when she was eating something she got an infection and for one week she didn't eat any solids."

The family was taken to the Melbourne detention centre after their Biloela home was raided by Australian Border Force officials a day after Priya's bridging visa expired.

Subsequent federal court appeals for their release have failed.

The High Court is now assessing a special leave application by their lawyers.

This year Kopika's birthday, her second in detention, also falls on Mother's Day.

Ms Cameron said Kopika and Tharunicaa's deteriorating health was proof of the impact prolonged detention had on children.

"Although I'm angry that this could have happened in a developed country like Australia, I'm not at all surprised," she said.

"These two young children have had very limited time outdoors, they have not had access to the wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables that are crucial for children's development and they have both developed vitamin deficiencies."

The Federal Government has rejected the claims that detainees had not received sufficient medical treatment.

An Australian Border Force spokesperson said it upheld Australia's international human rights obligations and "strongly rejects claims that children in residential accommodation are not provided adequate, age-appropriate food".

"Minors in immigration detention are accommodated in facilities most appropriate to their individual circumstances and needs and in accordance with the department's risk mitigation settings," it said.

It said health services and mental health clinics were provided on site, with referrals to allied and specialist health providers as required.

Freelance journalist Rebekah Holt, who has reported on Australian detention centres since 2016, said it was obvious the system was flawed.

Ms Holt said Priya and Nades waited up to 10 months for a referral for Tharunicaa to see a dentist.

The International Health and Medical Service offers services to detainees, however it is difficult to see a specialist.

There are also challenges to access medication.

Ms Holt said Priya had recently become upset because the guards were up to four hours late with pain relief medication for Tharunicaa.

Following news of Tharunicaa's dental health complications the Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People Liana Buchanan requested a meeting to discuss concerns about detained children.

"We are keen to ascertain exactly how many children are in detention, the services being provided to them, and access to the children that would enable me to be satisfied that their wellbeing is being safeguarded in detention to the extent possible in that environment," she said.

Meanwhile Tamil Refugee Council spokesperson Aran Mylvaganam said recent conflicts in Sri Lanka showed the family could have a deadly fate if they were forced to return to their home country.

On Easter Sunday suicide bombings were carried out at three churches and three luxury hotels, killing 257 people.

"Over Easter there was a bomb attack in Nades' and Priy'a home town which has led to emergency laws being introduced and a lot of Tamils are being targeted," he said.

"The security situation has changed in Sri Lanka, which validates our claim that their lives will be in danger if they are deported back."