Subject: Courier: Jose pleads to stay

The Courier

Jose pleads to stay 

By NINA LEES Saturday, 14 June 2003

EAST Timorese man Jose da Costa desperately wants to stay in Ballarat, but he could get his marching orders next week.

The quietly spoken teaching student has called Ballarat home since 1995, and wants to stay in the city he has grown to love.

He told his story to The Courier just days before he could be forced to leave.

"I love the people here, they are so friendly and nice," Mr da Costa said.

"People here have supported me for six years."

But next Friday his temporary protection visa could be revoked.

Mr da Costa, 26, fled East Timor in 1995 after living in fear of his life for many years.

He is cared for by Ballarat's Sisters of Mercy and studies teaching thanks to a scholarship from the Australian Catholic University.

It took him a long time to get used the freedom taken for granted by Australians.

"Here people can do whatever they want with their life ... you can just be yourself," Mr da Costa said.

"In East Timor there is always something that distracts you. I didn't feel safe walking down the street, you don't have any freedom there," he explained.

Many of his friends and uncles were captured by Indonesians at the height of East Timor's civil unrest.

Most have never been seen again.

A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department explained that an assessment of many East Timorese people living in Australia was conducted in February. Many applications for permanent residency were revoked.

While the process is complicated and each case in judged on its merit, East Timorese can apply for protection in Australia and are issued with a bridging visa until the outcome has been heard, she said.

"If a person is refused residency, which most have been, it goes before a review tribunal. If refused again, a person can apply to the Immigration Minister (Phillip Ruddick) for intervention."

Mr da Costa wants nothing more than to stay. And so do many others. He has become a role model to many of the city's young people.

He often shares his experiences with school groups, talking about values and how to prepare for the future.

While he does want to return home to see his family one day, he wants to put his teaching skills into practice at a Ballarat school first.

He finishes his studies at the end of the year.

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