She was born in Australia, but the country wants to send her back to alleged war criminals
Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT) June 19, 2021
Brisbane (CNN)Tharnicaa was eight months old when Australian Border Force officers burst into her home in rural Australia, and tore her Sri Lankan refugee parents and their children from their new life.
The shocking dawn raid infuriated locals who began a nationwide campaign against their removal to Sri Lanka, where as minority Tamils they fear persecution.
After a traumatic three years, during which the family was held offshore on Christmas Island, and Tharnicaa had to receive medical treatment for illnesses she developed in detention there, the Australian government has finally succumbed to pressure to let them stay -- for now. This week, it announced they can remain in community detention in Perth while they finalize their legal challenges.
Thousands of Tamil asylum seekers in Australia are closely watching their case.
Tharnicaa, now 4, and her sister Kopika, 6, were born in Australia, but the government considers the entire family "illegal maritime arrivals" because their parents, Priya and Nades Murugappan, paid traffickers to take them to Australia by boat.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said Australia doesn't owe protection to the family, and others like it. "Sri Lanka is safe. People are returning from all around the world to Sri Lanka ... it is safe to do so and that's the government's policy," he said.
But mounting evidence suggests that is not the case, according to the United Nations, rights groups and a UK tribunal that recently criticized one of the main sources of information used by Australian immigration officers to deny Sri Lankans refugee status.
Human rights groups are calling for an urgent review of all rejected Tamil asylum cases, arguing that Australia's Sri Lanka country information report, compiled by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is out of date and "inaccurate."
Seeking safety in Australia
Nades and Priya didn't know each other when they came to Australia on boats filled with asylum seekers in 2012 and 2013. Those were peak years for a refugee rush to Australia before the government slammed the door on new arrivals with a tough policy of offshore detention.
The couple arrived before the deadline of July 2013, when the then-Labor government announced no asylum seeker who arrived by boat would ever be settled in Australia.
The Murugappans were part of the "fast track" cohort -- people who arrived by boat between August 13, 2012, and January 1, 2014 -- who could live in the community while their asylum claim