Subject: GLW: All East Timorese refugees should be granted visas

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

GLW: All East Timorese refugees should be granted visas

Green Left Weekly June 11, 2003

All East Timorese refugees should be granted visas


Immigration minister Philip Ruddock's June 3 decision to grant 379 East Timorese asylum seekers permanent residency in Australia is a decision that all supporters of refugees' right should welcome.

The decision ends more than a decade of waiting for the 379 people concerned. But for the remaining East Timorese asylum seekers living in Australia, the waiting continues.

The applications for permanent residency by all of the 1800 East Timorese asylum seekers were delayed for up to 10 years by the government's ridiculous view that they should seek legal protection from Portugal, East Timor's former colonial ruler, despite the fact that the government had recognised Indonesia's 1976 annexation of East Timor.

Last year, when the immigration department finally resumed processing the East Timorese asylum seekers' applications, their claims for refugee status had collapsed because East Timor had gained independence from Indonesia. They were consequently threatened with deportation, even though many members of them were either born in Australia or arrived as children.

In granting the visas, Ruddock has clearly rejected the previous determination of the Refugee Review Tribunal that the East Timorese asylum seekers were not eligible for full refugee status. He has also indicated that a high proportion of the remaining East Timorese asylum seekers are likely to be granted visas on humanitarian grounds.

In the days following Ruddock's decision, a number of public figures including Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, Democrats' leader Senator Andrew Bartlett, City of Yarra mayor Greg Barber and Catholic bishop Hilton Deacon, have publicly called upon Ruddock to grant permanent visas to the remaining East Timorese asylum seekers.

And yet, in spite of all the evidence pointing to the validity of the refugee claims of the East Timorese, Ruddock continues to refuse to create a special humanitarian visa category. Instead, the remaining asylum seekers will be forced to go through the complex, lengthy and costly tribunal process, a process which has now been proven to have failed.

The continued uncertainty of their status is causing immense stress and anxiety for the remaining East Timorese asylum seekers. With the stroke of a pen, Ruddock could remove that uncertainty.

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