Priya watched as her fiance was burned alive, alongside five other men, at the hands of the Sri Lankan government.
It was an atrocity that was commonplace. He was killed because he belonged to the Tamil ethnic group, native to Sri Lanka, but persecuted by the Sri Lankan Military.
It’s estimated that 40,000 Tamils have been killed. But the number could be as high as 70,000. It’s hard to know, given the government at the time wasn’t really counting.
During the Sri Lankan civil war, and according to multiple reports, even since, Tamils have been subject to widespread rape, torture, bombings and murder.
It was 2012 when Priya, having lost the man she was meant to marry, decided to seek asylum in Australia. She wouldn’t have known much. Just that in Australia, your country does not kill you because of the blood that runs through your veins.
One year later, a man named Nadesalingam sought refuge for the same reason. A Tamil, Nadesalingam is said to still bare scars, and wear the shrapnel that exploded onto him from a government bomb.
In Australia, Priya and Nadesalingam met. They married. Nadesalingam got a job in the Biloela meatworks. They had two children. It was surely a life previously unimaginable to a woman who watched a man she loved burn.
For more than three years, the couple lived in Biloela, a small community in Central Queensland.
Then, in March last year, Priya’s bridging visa expired. She says she was in communication with a case worker from the Department of Home Affairs, according to The Guardian. Priya was expecting a new visa to arrive.
It never came, though.
Instead, while Nadesalingam was getting ready for work and Priya was preparing a bottle for her seven month old baby, their home was stormed by police.
Their sleeping children were taken from their beds, while Priya and Nadesalingam were given just 10 minutes to collect whatever they needed. They would never be coming back.
Simone Cameron, who used to live in Bioela with the family, told the ABC they were, “lovely, salt-of-the-earth people… They’ve had such a traumatic life living through a war and they just thought a town like Biloela was the answer to their dreams.”
Cameron recalls teaching Nadesalingam English, while another community member says he volunteered at St Vincent’s de Paul.
The family of four, two of whom were born in Australia, were sent to a detention centre in Melbourne.
For months, they were held in small rooms, unable to go outside or see other people.