Subject: Sparse joy for city's Timorese

Melbourne/Yarra Leader (Australia)

December 8, 2003 Monday

Sparse joy for city's Timorese

By Rachel Kleinman

YARRA'S East Timorese asylum-seekers face a miserable Christmas unless their appeals for residency are resolved.

About 700 of Australia's 1700 East Timorese asylum-seekers live in the City of Yarra.

Most have been through painstaking and drawn-out application processes for residency during the past 18 months.

Many initial appeals were rejected but applicants took their claims to the Refugee Review Tribunal.

After failing at that hurdle, they then personally appealed to the Immigration Minister.

Latest figures from the Federal Department of Immigration show 437 had been granted permanent residency.

But most others still await news and face a grim festive season without welfare help.

All asylum-seekers supported under the Red Cross Asylum Seeker Assistance program had their benefits cut off when their tribunal appeals were rejected. They have been struggling without financial help ever since.

Yarra Council launched a fund and raised about $14,000 to help provide basic medical assistance, food and rent for the community.

But last week Mayor Greg Barber said more was needed during the Christmas period.

He said he had spoken to Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone's office but that there was no indication when a decision would be made on the outstanding applications.

"Unless people are granted residency before Christmas, there will be a lot of people desperate and distressed," Cr Barber said.

"The applications are literally sitting on the minister's desk. All I can do is appeal to her to process them sooner rather than later."

If you would like to help, please call Yarra Access on 9205 5555.

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