Australian born sisters Kopika (4, right) and Tharunicaa (2) at the detention centre on Christmas Island.
Australian born sisters Kopika (4, right) and Tharunicaa (2) at the detention centre on Christmas Island.

Hearts ache as little girl starts prep in offshore detention

The first day of prep is a milestone for every child, but it will be a markedly different experience for at least one student.

Friend of the Biloela Tamil family detained on Christmas Island, Angela Fredericks, told The Observer four-year-old Kopika would start school next Monday, and to get there she'll be in the company of guards.

Only one parent is allowed to go with her to drop-off.

Ms Fredericks said Kopika was "very excited" about starting school.

While she is pleased Kopika has the opportunity to go to school, Ms Fredericks said the circumstances would be far removed from when her mother Priya would bring her daughters to community events in Bilo.

"I think that's what hurts us so much, that the girls have been taken away from all of that," she said.

Faced with deportation, the family is awaiting Federal Court dates on February 21 and 25.

Whether the family's future lies in Sri Lanka or Biloela hinges on two-year-old Tharunicaa's right to apply for a protection visa.

Ms Fredericks has stayed in regular contact and plans to travel to Christmas Island on February 25 for support.

The holiday period has brought more difficulties for Priya, her husband Nades, and their daughters.

It's wet season, and Ms Fredericks said the family had been spending a lot of time indoors after Kopika had an allergic reaction to mosquitoes.

"Her whole body was breaking out in welts," she said.

They are the only people detained at the centre, and Ms Fredericks said people were angry about the cost associated with keeping the family on Christmas Island when they are wanted in Biloela.

"I know there has been so much anger when you look at the expense," she said.

The organiser of the Home to Bilo campaign remains hopeful for a positive result, but said the emotional toll had impacted the community.

"We never dreamt this would be going two years later," she said.


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