Carr backs asylum seeker call
By Marilyn Rodrigues
NSW Premier Bob Carr supports Church moves to reverse the Federal Government’s decision to refuse asylum to 1600 East Timorese refugees, many of whom have been in Australia for more than 10 years.
It would be cruel to deport them, he said.
“My position is that they ought to be allowed to stay in Australia,” Mr Carr said at the launch of Caritas Australia’s Iraq Appeal at NSW Parliament House.
“They’re fitting in well, they are part of the community here. To send them away from Australia and back to a land with all the difficulties they’ve got would be quite cruel.”
The Premier said he would give his expression of bipartisan support to Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock if the minister made the decision to let them stay.
The East Timorese refugees in question came to Australia between 1991 and 1995.
They settled into the community until the Refugee Review Tribunal rejected their claims for asylum this year.
Most of them live in Melbourne, although some are in Sydney.
The Victorian Government is providing funds for legal fees for those who are trying to remain in the community.
Mercy Sr Anne Forbes says that her community in Melbourne has been helping some of the young people who are affected while they pursue university studies.
She said one man in his 20s hoped only to be able to stay in Australia until the end of the year so he can complete his teaching degree.
Some who have been advised by their lawyers to apply for permanent residency are worried because they will lose their weekly payment from the Red Cross (the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme payment) and then, if successful, they cannot apply for Austudy or employment benefits for two years.
“It doesn’t matter if they have no money, no house to go to in East Timor,” Sr Anne said.
“They have to go there now and it is very unjust.
“They are waiting in no-man’s-land and it is very difficult for them to settle down and study this year.
“Some of the children of these people were born here.
“They have never been to East Timor; they don’t know the language.
“Their home is here.”
Earlier this year Archbishop Francis Carroll, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, wrote to Mr Ruddock with an urgent plea to allow the East Timorese to stay in Australia.
Archbishop Carroll has twice requested that the government create a special visa category to acknowledge their special circumstances.