NEW ACCOMMODATIONS: Tamil asylum seekers Nades, wife Priya, and their Australian-born daughters Dharuniga and Kopika.
NEW ACCOMMODATIONS: Tamil asylum seekers Nades, wife Priya, and their Australian-born daughters Dharuniga and Kopika.

Biloela girl celebrates sixth birthday in detention

Little Kopika Murugappan's friends celebrated her six birthday in her hometown of Biloela, 5000km away from her confinement on Christmas Island, and the thing she dreams of most is for her father Nades to take her to the shops in his car - not to Toyworld but to Woolworths.

Her family has been in detention on Christmas Island since March 5, 2018, making it 1165 days that Priya, Nades and their two Australia-born daughters have spent away from Central Queensland.

Home to Bilo campaign founder and close family friend Angela Fredericks recently called Kopika to wish her a happy birthday.

"I was going through photos, seeing when this girl entered detention she was a toddler, but now you can sit and have a conversation with her," Mrs Fredericks said.

"[Her detention]'s just so cruel and just doesn't make sense."

Kopika's birthday was on a school day and the teacher brought in cupcakes for the kids to celebrate on May 12.

It was her fourth birthday on Christmas Island.

"On the surface, we're seeing she's just a typical six-year-old, she loves princesses and Disney and all that stuff," Mrs Fredericks said.

"She's grown up before her time."

Kopika has spent her sixth birthday in detention at Christmas Island. PIC: Home to Bilo Facebook page
Kopika has spent her sixth birthday in detention at Christmas Island. PIC: Home to Bilo Facebook page

 

Mrs Fredericks said the main comments she had heard the family receive was "wow, she's (Kopika) grown up".

But the little girl is getting a sense of being different to her peers back in Biloela.

"She can't go to the park after school. She can't go to the beach on the weekend," Mrs Fredericks said.

"The thing she most wants to do is hop in her dad's car and go to the shops.

"She's got such innocent desires.

"Her questions are around: will I ever be released? Will I ever get to be free? Will I ever get to go to Angela's house at Biloela again?"

The family's struggle has received international media attention with the BBC running an article recently, as well as Al Jazeera and CNN doing stories in the past.

Mrs Fredericks said one of the fears was how well the family was known in Sri Lanka now, where Tamil families like the Murugappans suffer discrimination.

But she doesn't think it's a bad thing in the sense the family and the media have shown the Western world what is going on in Sri Lanka.

"It has opened the Western world's eye, of things that have been reported previously by the UN," she said.

"They were already in danger, but have essentially increased that danger."

The Home to Bilo campaign and many concerned Australians are fighting for the family to be returned to Australian shores safely, but an ongoing court battle is one of the things that has kept the family in detention.

Even after new home affairs minister Karen Andrews assumed her role in March, the government maintained that the family was not owed protection.

"Both adults arrived in Australia illegally by boat," a Department of Home Affairs spokesman told The Morning Bulletin in March.

Labor Senator Kristina Keneally, who has recently visited the family on Christmas Island, previously called out Prime Minister Scott Morrison for allowing the "cruel and inhumane" saga to continue at a $50m cost to the taxpayer.

Under currently laws, children who are born to parents who are both on temporary visas will reside in Australia on a visa with similar conditions to their parents, and aren't eligible to gain citizenship until having lived in Australia for 10 consecutive years.

The Home to Bilo campaign holds that under the Migration Act, immigration ministers have the power to intervene in any immigration case for any reason.

"They have the powers with their ministerial discussion," Mrs Fredericks said.

Kopika's little sister Tharnicaa will turn four on June 12, and has only ever celebrated birthdays in detention.

"How amazing it would be for her 4th birthday she could be free," Mrs Fredericks said.