Ballarat mayor calls for certainty from Labor as asylum seeker family marks eight years in ‘limbo’

Ballarat’s mayor is urging the federal government to provide a much-loved family of asylum seekers greater certainty as they mark their eighth year stuck in “limbo”.

Neil Para, his wife Sugaa Neil and their three school-aged daughters moved from Sri Lanka to Ballarat in September 2013 on a bridging visa. 

But Mr Para said their visas were revoked for no apparent reason just four months later.

The couple has since been seeking asylum and have been unable to legally work.

They cannot access government services such as Medicare and Centrelink.

“We’re still in limbo. No visas, nothing at all,” Mr Para said.

“We want to work but are unable to work.”

‘The height of cruelty’

The Para family has committed to giving back to their local community despite their challenging situation.

Mr Para volunteers with the Victoria State Emergency Services Ballarat Unit and Mrs Neil volunteers at the council’s visitor information centre.

Mayor Daniel Moloney called on the federal government to end the Para family’s “cruel” ordeal as Australia marked annual refugee week.

“It’s another level of cruelty when you actually say to a refugee family, ‘you can’t work, you can’t earn an income and are dependent on others’,” Mr Moloney said.

“That’s just the height of cruelty.”

a man wearing a white checkered shirt in front of a lake with reeds
Daniel Moloney is calling for the federal government to provide the Para family with certainty.(ABC Ballarat: Christopher Testa)

He said he and preceding mayors had written to the previous Morrison government in a push to secure certainty for the family and “pave the way” for permanent citizenship.

“We love what Neil and Sugaa have done for us,” he said.

Mr Moloney said the compassion shown by the federal government to allow fellow Tamil refugee family, the Murugappans, to return to Biloela in central Queensland, should be extended to the Para family.

“They’re in almost the exactly the same situation,” he said.

“Fortunately they haven’t been forced into offshore detention … but there are many similarities.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said it did not comment on individual cases, but “non-citizens who have exhausted all avenues to remain in Australia are expected to depart”.

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