Christian Brothers join call to let Timorese stay
By Damir Govorcin
The Christian Brothers have joined the debate about East Timorese asylum seekers, urging the Federal Government to grant the 1600 East Timorese refugees a special visa category to allow them to stay here.
The people in question came here between 1991 and 1995.
The Refugee Review Tribunal recently rejected their claims for asylum, after Department of Immigration processing which has taken up to 10 years.
Br Laurie Needham, NSW province leader of the Christian Brothers, says East Timorese who arrived just a few months earlier - with exactly the same claims - had received refugee status.
“We believe the 1600 asylum seekers, as a fundamental matter of justice, should now be allowed to remain in Australia,” says Br Laurie.
“They have become part of Australian society; they have settled here and have contributed positively to the community.
“Many of their children have been born here; their families are here. They have contributed to Australia as hard-working, law-abiding people. Australia is where they are most at home. They belong here.
“We urge the Australian Federal Government to grant these asylum seekers a special visa category.”
The Christian Brothers and their co-workers are in East Timor in order to work alongside the East Timorese on the challenges facing them in areas of health and education.
“From the East Timorese we learn valuable lessons of justice and compassion,” says Br Laurie.
East Timor’s President Xanana Gusmao has asked that the 1600 be allowed to stay.
“The problem is that these 1600 Timorese will merely constitute another 1,600 mouths that we are unable to feed, dozens more families that we are unable to shelter,” he said.
Br Laurie says Australia should not be adding to the burdens of East Timor at this stage of its history as an independent nation.
“The asylum seekers are now part of our community and East Timor cannot cope with their return,” he says.