A Tamil asylum seeker family has been moved to Christmas Island after being given a reprieve against deportation from Australia until Wednesday.
Supporters said they lost contact with the family on Friday night, and learned just after 2am that they had arrived at a detention centre on the island, north-west of Australia.
In a statement the Home to Bilo group said the family’s solicitor, Carina Ford, had been notified of the move in a notice received from the immigration department during the night.
Priya, her husband Nadesalingam and their Australian-born children Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2, had been held at a Darwin military base.
Priya was able to make contact with family and friends when they arrived at Christmas Island.
“My children have been separated from their world,” she said.
The move comes after a judge issued a last-minute injunction to halt their deportation from Melbourne to Sri Lanka on Thursday night.
The family landed in Darwin after the order was made and were taken off the plane.
On Friday, there was another glimmer of hope.
The family’s legal team say only Tharunicaa is protected under the ruling because her claims for asylum protections have never been assessed.
The rest of her family could be expelled as their legal avenues have been exhausted but Ford said Australia would be condemned if it split up the family.
The Guardian understands the government has given a commitment not to separate family members. The family has been held in immigration detention since March of last year when ABF officers raided their home in Biloela at dawn, the morning after Priya’s bridging visa expired. She still had legal avenues of appeal open to her at that point.
Doctors and Victoria’s commissioner for children and young people – the family has been held in detention in Melbourne – have warned that the prolonged detention and uncertainty has harmed the health of the children.
Despite mounting community pressure, the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, is refusing to grant the family permission to stay.
“I would like the family to accept that they are not refugees, they’re not owed protection by our country,” he told the Nine Network on Friday.
Dutton said the deportation had been years in the making and should surprise no one, least of all the couple who had been warned prior to having children that they would not be allowed to stay.
Friends in Biloela say the town has swung from grief and despair when the family was issued their deportation notice on Thursday, to anger at what they see as an unjust failure to consider the family’s circumstance, and the contribution they have made to their community in Biloela.
Family friend and advocate Angela Fredericks said she hoped the government might reconsider its position before the next court date Wednesday.
“We implore them to do some soul-searching. This should be showing what Australia is made of.”
A nationwide day of protest has been planned for Sunday, with rallies in Biloela, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Hobart, Adelaide and Perth.
The lawyer representing the family, Carina Ford, said she was notified by email overnight that the family had been moved.
“This is a concern as it does not give us access to our client in a manner that we would have in a major city nor are we able to facilitate the witnessing of documents,” she said. “It’s also isolating for the family and traumatic for them.”