Subject: Cautious welcome for Govt about-face on Timorese

Also - AGE: Asylum seekers granted reprieve

cathnews.com/news/505/115.php

Catholic News

Cautious welcome for Govt about-face on Timorese

Advocate on behalf of East Timorese in Australia, Sr Susan Connelly, has said the Immigration Minister's change of heart on her decision to immediately deport 50 East Timorese asylum seekers who have been living in Australia for more than a decade.

Sr Connelly stressed that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs announcement allows only for a reconsideration of the cases of those affected, and it does not mean that they can necessarily stay.

"Some good news," she said. "It's not over yet, but this is very positive."

The Minister for Immigration, Amanda Vanstone, announced yesterday that the cases, "recently advised that their request for Ministerial intervention had been unsuccessful, will now be reconsidered".

"A number of the East Timorese asylum seekers have asked that their cases be reconsidered and have provided new information in support of their claims since the time that they were advised that their request for intervention had been unsuccessful," she said. "In the circumstances, I have asked the Department to refer back to me all cases in which I and my predecessor declined to intervene. This is to ensure consistency and fairness in making final decisions across the caseload.

Meanwhile The Age reports today that a planned Sunday vigil for the refugees at St Ignatius Catholic Church in Richmond, Melbourne, with Bishop Hilton Deakin presiding, would be changed to a thanksgiving service.

Spokesperson and East Timorese asylum seeker support worker at the North Richmond Community Health Centre, Etervina Groenen, said the minister's move offered the refugees "breathing space" and "everyone is breathing a sigh of relief".

She hailed Senator Vanstone for letting "common sense" prevail. It showed the Government was listening to community concerns, she said.

She was hopeful of a positive outcome and said: "The present Federal Government had been much more willing to acknowledge that the East Timorese have suffered than the government before it."

A decision could be expected in two to three weeks, with the asylum seekers maintaining their exiting bridging visas and work rights, she said.

SOURCE cathnews.com/news/505/doc/20conn.html Sister Susan Connelly: Good News on Timorese Deportees (Mary MacKillop Institute of East Timorese Studies 19/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources) minister.immi.gov.au/media_releases/media05/v05060.htm East Timorese Caseload Will be Reconsidered (Senator Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs 19/5/05) -

mmiets.org.au Mary MacKillops Institute of East Timorese Studies

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The Age

Asylum seekers granted reprieve

By Andra Jackson May 20, 2005

Fifty refugees from East Timor facing deportation are celebrating after being told at the last minute their claims for protection will be reconsidered.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone last night announced a reprieve for 50 East Timorese asylum seekers facing deportation.

Senator Vanstone said she would reconsider their claims to be allowed to stay in Australia.

Last night one of the refugees, who had faced a deadline of next Monday to accept a voluntary repatriation offer, said: "I am lost for words."

A tearful Frans Lay, 41, from Richmond, who has lived in Australia for 10 years, said: "I would like to say thank you to the Government for giving me a chance and I hope that they will eventually let me stay here permanently."

Mr Lay, a cook with an extended family in Melbourne, said: "If I go back to East Timor, I don't know what I would do. In Australia, I have a permanent job and I am very happy here."

Senator Vanstone had previously rejected an appeal for her to intervene in the cases - the last remaining of more than 1500 East Timorese refugees who had been living in Australia for more than a decade on bridging visas until most received permanent visas two years ago.

The 50 refugees had twice had their applications for protection rejected and were facing a deadline of next Monday to accept a repatriation offer from Senator Vanstone of $2000 a person or $10,000 a family, plus air fares to East Timor.

An East Timorese asylum seeker support worker at the North Richmond Community Health Centre, Etervina Groenen, said the minister's move offered the refugees "breathing space" and "everyone is breathing a sigh of relief".

She hailed Senator Vanstone for letting "common sense" prevail.

It showed the Government was listening to community concerns, she said.

She was hopeful of a positive outcome and said: "The present Federal Government had been much more willing to acknowledge that the East Timorese have suffered than the government before it."

A planned Sunday vigil for the refugees at St Ignatius Catholic Church in Richmond, with Bishop Hilton Deakin presiding, would be changed to a thanksgiving service, she said.

Senator Vanstone said she had asked for all the rejected cases to be referred back to her "to ensure consistency and fairness in making final decisions".

A decision could be expected in two to three weeks, with the asylum seekers maintaining their exiting bridging visas and work rights, she said.

Last Update: Thursday, May 19, 2005. 7:32pm (AEST)


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