Subject: ABC: Australia's Catholic Bishops appeal for Timor refugees

see also: Catholic Archbishop calls on Ruddock to let the East Timorese stay

Australia's Catholic Bishops appeal for Timor refugees

Australia's Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock has been asked to establish a special visa category in a bid to allow a group of East Timorese to stay in the country.

The special visa would apply to about 18-hundred East Timorese asylum seekers who are facing deportation.

The President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Francis Carroll, says its the second time he's written to the Minister urging him to give the group sympathetic consideration.

He says many of the asylum seekers have been living in Australia for more than eight years, and have children who have been born and raised in this society.

He says, "I spoke with the minister briefly on one occasion, and he outlined a few cases where there would be a successful application, but certainly there was no likelihood of his granting the special category of visa that we had asked for."

19/02/2003 10:30:53 | ABC Radio Australia News

Media Release

18 February 2003

Catholic Archbishop calls on Ruddock to let the East Timorese stay

Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference President, Archbishop Francis Carroll has written to Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock with an urgent plea to allow a group of East Timorese asylum seekers to stay in Australia.

It is the second time Archbishop Carroll has written to the minister on behalf of the group of about 1800 asylum seekers.

The first letter, followed by a brief meeting with Mr Ruddock, produced no concession from the government.

The government expects the East Timorese, many of whom are children and have lived their whole lives in Australia to return to their impoverished and unstable homeland.

Archbishop Carroll urged Mr Ruddock to give "sympathetic attention" to their plight.

"The Catholic Church has many agencies and individuals who are in constant communication with East Timor," he wrote.

"Their reports indicate that the country is very poor, unemployment is high and there is still inadequate housing for the current population.

"These people are mainly Catholic and have become respected and valued members of our Church community."

The level of support within the Catholic community was demonstrated with 40,000 signatures on a national petition, which Archbishop Carroll presented personally to the Minister during their brief meeting in December.

In his letter Archbishop Carroll restated his request that the government create a special visa category to acknowledge the special circumstances of the East Timorese people in question.

For more information contact Felicity Donnelly at the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugees Office on (02) 6201 9848.

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