Going Home?! 

One Man's Web > Politics and Ethics > Australia and the refugees > Going Home?!
12 April 2003

Imagine being 8 or 10 years of age... a school kid in Adelaide or Melbourne.  You've lived here all your life and never been outside your country.  What sort of country would compel you and your family to go and live a war ravaged third world country? Australia would, and is in the process of doing so....

Melbourne school principal Peter Lord says of some of his students: 

They have no connection with East Timor, they have no experience of it, it is not their home, Australia is their home. They would go back to a country where there's no employment for their parents, where the economy is in ruins, where 90 percent of the primary schools were destroyed by the departing Indonesians and they would go from a modern Australian school, to a situation that would be totally foreign to them, the trauma would be dramatic and I think we could never, should never put children in such a situation.

There are some 1650 East Timorese refugees in Australia who fled the Dili Santa Cruz cemetery massacre.  The Australian government and Minister of No Mercy Phillip Ruddock want to send them back, including 28 year old Fivo Frietas who received his deportation notice just five days after he was awarded 'Young Australian of the Year' for his service to the Australian and East Timorese communities.

East Timor does not want these people back.  It's not that there is hostility. East Timor says it is too poor to take them back. East Timorese President Gusmao draws a distinction between these Australian refugees who are comfortable and those in West Timorese refugee camps who would be better off if they could come home. Ruddock has rejected the plea from Gusmao, saying if East Timor can call for the return of refugees in West Timor it can handle the few in Australia. 

These are the refugees who Australia sought to avoid taking to begin with, saying they should go to Portugal.

Some of these people have jobs, mortgages and are productive members of Australian society. Others are still very dependent on social services.  Some of these people are now dependent on charities for survival as the government has refused to continue paying social security benefits.

The government is also delaying an ALP amendment to the Migration Act to allow these long term residents to stay in Australia.

You can support the Labor amendment by emailing: Julia.Gillard.MP@aph.gov.au who is the Shadow Minister for Immigration.  Mr Ruddock can be emailed at this address: http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/contact/index.htm#email

ALP Media Statement - 10 April 2003

The Shadow Minister for Population and Immigration has been told that community organisations in Darwin will soon be unable to provide for the needs of the Northern Territory's East Timorese asylum seekers.

The Red Cross and the St Vincent de Paul Society met with Julia Gillard and the Member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, today to discuss the growing crisis in the community, as another Darwin family of asylum seekers was stripped of financial and medical support.

Ms Gillard said the Federal Government's refusal to debate legislation that would grant a permanent end to the trauma was stretching the capacity of charities to breaking point.

"The Minister for Immigration is refusing to recognise that this crisis exists," Ms Gillard said.

"These people fled to Australia seeking shelter from persecution, but were neglected by successive governments for a decade.

"This was not their fault, but now they're being left to starve."

Today's move by the Department of Immigration to cut off asylum seeker support payments to a family of six means that nineteen of Darwin's East Timorese have been left to rely on friends and charities to survive a number that is expected to double by the end of the month.

The Department plans to cut off this support to 50 East Timorese in the Territory, mostly children, the elderly and working parents on very low incomes.

The Department has admitted that the asylum seekers could wait up to nine months before they receive a decision on whether they can stay.

Mr Snowdon said the removal of basic support to children and the elderly was disgraceful.

"What has happened to this country, when the Government can force people to make do with nothing?" Mr Snowdon said.

"These people need help immediately, not when the Government makes up its mind in nine months' time."

Mr Snowdon said the Government had twice delayed the introduction of Labor's amendment to the Migration Act without providing an explanation.

If passed in both houses of Parliament, the amendment will provide the 1600 East Timorese asylum seekers in Australia with special humanitarian visas that will give them permanent residency.

Links live at 12-4-2003: www.abc.net.au/asiapacific/location/asia/GoAsiaPacificLocationStories_782999.htm



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