Australian town rallies behind family seeking asylum
Greg Navarro

Australia's government has refused to reverse the decision to deport a family of asylum seekers, despite the efforts of a small, rural Queensland community.

Nadesalingnam, his wife Priya and their two small children have spent the last 12 months in detention in Melbourne, with few remaining options to stop their deportation.

"I think it will be a really sad day for us as a nation if, with the spotlight on this example, if Priya and Nades are deported. It will be a sad day for Australia in general because it says that our immigration system is a broken system," said Biloela's resident Bronwyn Dendle.

The couple fled the war in Sri Lanka and arrived separately by boat in 2012 and 2013. They met in Queensland and moved to the small, rural town of Biloela where they married and had two children.

Nades and Priya. /Photo provided by Angela Fredericks

Nades and Priya. /Photo provided by Angela Fredericks

Resident Angela Fredericks says she immediately bonded with Priya.

"I can't comprehend that fear and that danger, the torture, the things that she witnessed that no one should have to witness in a lifetime and so I could completely understand why she got on a boat. It was literally get on a boat or be killed."

When the family's temporary visas expired 12 months ago, they were taken into custody and sent to a detention center. The government had ruled that the family had entered the country illegally and were not eligible for refugee status.

That's when people in the town began to raise awareness about the family's plight, and support.

Nades and Priya, their children, and supporters at a Melbourne detention center. /Photo provided by Angela Fredericks

Nades and Priya, their children, and supporters at a Melbourne detention center. /Photo provided by Angela Fredericks

"Once we had gotten that ground swell of the public asking what have they done with our friends, our neighbors, I guess we just needed to show that to the world and say that we want them back and say that a policy that can do this is wrong," said Dendle.

Australia's controversial border protection policy has become an important campaign issue recently just months before the next election. Under the policy, people who arrive illegally by boat seeking asylum are intercepted and placed in detention, usually in offshore facilities.

"They need to see this family as an example of what we want. We actually want people who go to rural places where we need population growth, they go into jobs we struggle to fill and they assimilate," said Fredericks.

(Top image: Rally in Biloela to raise support for Nades and Priya. /Photo provided by Angela Fredericks)