Asylum-seeking Family's Deportation Stopped Mid-air After Lawyers Secure Last-minute Injunction

The deportation of a Tamil family of asylum seekers in Australia was halted just as the plane flying them out of the country left the tarmac on Thursday.

Nadesalingam and Priya and their two daughters, 4-year-old Kopika and 2-year-old Tharunicaa, had fled Sri Lanka separately by boat in 2012 and 2013, seeking refuge from persecution in Australia, according to The Guardian.

In the years since, the couple had gotten married and settled down in the Central Queensland town of Biloela, where they were working and raising their two children.

After years spent quietly building a new life in Australia, the family came under national attention in March last year when authorities showed up at their home and forcibly removed them.

Since then, the family has been fighting to remain in Australia, with the help of supporters across the country.

On Thursday, however, it appeared that they had finally lost that fight, with the family being forced to board a plane back to the country they fled.

After the family appealed for help on social media, protesters raced to Melbourne Airport to do what they could to intervene in the deportation.

In a dramatic turn of events, however, lawyers were able to secure an injunction over the phone just as the plane left the tarmac.

The intervention forced pilots to land the plane in Darwin, more than 1,850 miles away from their home, seeing the family spared from deportation for at least a handful of days.

In a press conference, the family's lawyer, Carina Ford, explained that the ruling only applies to the family's youngest daughter, meaning that the rest of the family could still technically be deported before the matter returns to court on Wednesday.

Ford said that while that decision would ultimately lie with the government, "it would be pretty inhumane to separate the family at this time."

"I would hope that common sense prevails in that regard," she said.

Australia's government has remained firm, however, in its argument that the family does not qualify for refugee status.

"They are not owed protection by our country," Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton maintained on Friday.

Speaking to reporters, Dutton asserted that the family's asylum claim had been assessed at length and ultimately rejected by immigration authorities.

Meanwhile, more recent appeals from the parents and on their eldest child's behalf have also failed to secure the family's protection from deportation.

As news of Thursday's turn of events spread, social media was alight with pleas for the government to allow the family to remain in Australia.

"I urge the Prime Minister to intervene to offer compassion and grace to the Tamil family. He can save them from being deported," South Australia Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said in a tweet.

"The two children must be so scared. It does no harm to allow them stay so they can get on with school and being young healthy kids," she added.

"Why are we deporting the Biloela Tamil family?" author Jane Caro asked. "It makes no sense and is gratuitously cruel."

Melbourne Airport
Melbourne Airport, also known as Tullamarine Airport, is the primary airport serving the city of Melbourne, and the second busiest airport in Australia., Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Wednesday 22nd January 2014. A family has been spared from deportation for now after lawyers were able to secure a last-minute injunction. Steve Christo/Corbis/Getty