A Tamil couple who bear the scars of Sri Lanka's bloody civil war has tearfully begged Peter Dutton to "open his heart" and give their young daughters a safe life in Australia.
Priya, husband Nadesalingam and their Australian-born children Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2, have been under guard in Darwin after a judge issued a last-minute injunction to halt their deportation from Melbourne to Sri Lanka on Thursday.
Their flight landed in Darwin after the order was made and the family was taken off the plane.
On Friday, a Melbourne court ordered the government not to expel the youngest child until a further hearing on Wednesday.
The family's legal team say only Tharunicaa is protected by the ruling because her claims for asylum protections have never been assessed.
It's possible the rest of her family could be expelled as their legal avenues have been exhausted, but solicitor Carina Ford said Australia would be condemned if it split up the family.
The government has not wavered amid intense community support for the family, saying the couple are not refugees and used people smugglers to reach Australia when the war was raging.
Mr Dutton says the war is over now and it's time for the family to go home, like thousands of other Sri Lankans have done.
"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.
The couple says the government does not grasp the ongoing threats to Tamils in Sri Lanka, and particularly to people like Nadesalingam due to past links with Tamil Tigers insurgents who battled Sri Lanka's government.
The couple does not deny coming illegally to Australia by boat in 2012 and 2013, but say they had no other way to get out alive.
Speaking through a translator from Darwin on Friday, Priya told AAP she saw her fiance and five other men from her village burned alive before she fled. Her entire family now live as refugees in India.
Nadesalingam's body still carries the scars and pieces of shrapnel from a bomb detonated by government forces.
"It is not safe for my husband, it is not safe for me because of the government," Priya told AAP.
"We are all over the news. They know he has been in the LTTE (Tamil Tigers)."
The tearful couple begged Mr Dutton to intervene.
"Open your heart," cried Priya, who claims security guards injured her during Thursday night's flight.
Tamil Refugee Council spokesperson Aran Mylvaganam called on the government to impose a moratorium on Tamil deportations, saying the risks are real.
"There's a military occupation in the north and east of Sri Lanka, where Priya and Nades come from," he told the ABC.
"Sri Lanka still practices torture, according to the United Nations, disappearances are still happening."
Mr Dutton said the deportation had been years in the making and should surprise no-one, least of all the couple who'd been warned before they had children that they would not be allowed to stay.
He also suggested the family was using social media to garner community support as their story trended on Twitter for much of the day.
"So they are digging in and they've used social media. They've got a lot of support online because there are children involved. They want to stay and they will continue to push their argument, their case," he told Adelaide radio 5AA.
The family was moved on Friday afternoon from a hotel to a military base in Darwin, a supporter told AAP.
Australian Associated Press
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