Subject: East Timor Needs to Sort Itself Out First: Deputy PM Carrascalao

also Indonesia Fears Influx from East Timor Solution,

NZ backs Julia Gillard's East Timor solution to asylum seekers


July 15, 2010

East Timor Needs to Sort Itself Out First

EAST Timorese Deputy Prime Minister Mario Viegas Carrascalao yesterday rejected an Australian proposal to process asylum-seekers.

Mr Carrascalao said East Timor had too many problems of its own to deal with Australia's as well.

"Timor Leste is not a colony of another country. We have sovereignty and our people have rights to decide for themselves what they want," he said.

"We don't want another country to dictate to us. We're already independent and won't be a puppet of any other country."

Julia Gillard is negotiating with the government in Dili about her plan to establish a regional refugee processing centre in East Timor to handle asylum-seekers trying to reach Australia by boat.

The migrants generally pay Indonesian people smugglers to arrange the dangerous trip to Australian waters in unseaworthy boats, and many die or need to be rescued each year as they try to make the crossing.

East Timorese MPs voted on Monday to reject Ms Gillard's proposal, and several government and opposition leaders have expressed strong objections.

But President Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao have not ruled out the idea, and Ms Gillard says she is determined to win their approval.

Opposition within Mr Gusmao's government appears to be growing, however, with Mr Carrascalao echoing fellow Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres's earlier rejection last week.

"My personal opinion is that I am against the proposal as our people have many problems to be solved and that's enough for us. Don't find more problems from another country which will trouble our development," he said.

"Australia is a big and vast country. There should be a place for the refugees there."


The Sydney Morning Herlad

July 15, 2010


Indonesia Fears Influx from East Timor Solution

by Andrea Booth

Australia's failure to consult Indonesia about an asylum processing centre in East Timor is likely to exacerbate tensions between our two northern neighbours.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith arrived in Indonesia yesterday, with talks on the issue anticipated. Officials here won't say it, but it was wrong of Australia not to consult Indonesia on its policy.

Indonesian Institute of Sciences researcher Dr Tri Nuke Pudjiastut said South-East Asian countries should not assist asylum seekers in isolation. "We should be dealing with this as ASEAN. Indonesia should bring this problem to ASEAN." Advertisement: Story continues below

While East Timor says it won't join ASEAN until 2011, it is part of the ASEAN Regional Forum.

Leaving individual countries to deal with asylum seekers on their own may be better for Australia, as it sharply reduces irregular migration ­ as seen by former PM John Howard's measures ­ but it's clearly a selfish and irresponsible road to take, ultimately weakening the region's strength. Nothing stands in isolation. National procedures need to be based on responsibility sharing.

Not only is the move reckless, but Indonesia fears it cannot support potential refugees entering its borders amid domestic disasters, particularly as it and East Timor are still delimiting borders.

Indonesian Institute for Strategic Studies senior researcher Bantarto Bandoro said border control had been flailing since the separation of East Timor from Indonesia.

"This is one of the weakest spots that may drag the two countries into turbulent relations, as both countries seem to show a lack of awareness on how to solve this ongoing [border] problem," he said.

Bantarto said tension remained between the two countries on unresolved border areas after about 300,000 East Timorese, or 53,000 families, fled to Indonesia in 1999 when the anti-independence Timorese militia, supported by the Indonesian government, launched a scorched earth campaign. The violence killed about 1400 civilians and destroyed much of East Timor's infrastructure.

Weak security at the border will mean that refugees can enter Indonesia and East Timor without detection. Indonesia may end up bearing the responsibility of refugees if East Timor cannot properly manage a processing centre, which might be the case as Timor is still mired in internal challenges. Its infrastructure and economy are poor after years of fighting for independence.

Indonesia is still struggling to support East Timorese refugees who refuse repatriation and are living in its province of East Nusa Tenggara. CIS Data has shown the Indonesian government stopped providing relief in 2002.

Moreover, Indonesia is also accommodating asylum seekers from the Middle East and other areas of conflict, particularly since Australia asked for help intercepting boats bound for its shores.

Indonesia has taken in about 14,000 Afghan refugees intercepted on their way to Australia, while 255 Sri Lankan refugees were intercepted by the Indonesian Navy in October last year. But, as Tri Nuke says, Indonesia is still reluctant to sign the Refugee Convention, so an Australian processing centre will not be placed there.

Expecting Indonesia to accommodate a possible influx of refugees from an East Timor processing centre while also grappling to support its own citizens affected by natural disasters, such as last year's Padang earthquake and the 2006 Sidoarjo mudflow, seems a bit too much to ask. Many of the victims of these incidents still do not have homes.

Indonesia also faces increasing poverty ­ about 120 million of its people live on only $2 a day.

Indonesia's natural disaster and poverty crisis, and its infamous corrupt government and hard-line groups creating social, political and economic turmoil, are enough to show it cannot bear the weight of potential refugees crossing the border from East Timor.

Andrea Booth is an Australian journalist based in Jakarta.


NZ backs Julia Gillard's East Timor solution to asylum seekers

From correspondents in Auckland


July 15, 2010 2:05PM

ASYLUM seekers are a growing concern for New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, prompting him to back Julia Gillard's vision for a refugee processing hub in East Timor.

"Those who don't believe a ship can one day come here are deluding themselves," Mr Key said on Thursday.

"We've had advice on at least six ships in the last 12 months who have considered making voyages here, one where we actively send a deterrent to ... was coming from Indonesia."

"I think it's worth New Zealand having a discussion with the Australian prime minister about a solution."

Mr Key had a "cursory five minute conversation" with Ms Gillard over the phone last week where she flagged her vision for a refugee processing hub in East Timor but they didn't discuss details.

New Zealand currently take 750 refugees under the UN convention - which Nauru are considering signing - and Mr Key said he will not increase that number, nor will a processing centre be built on NZ soil

"We don't want to be party to something that we actively think would encourage the problem," he said.

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