Subject: ABC: East Timor reassures political asylum seekers

Also: Canberra Should Allow Refugees To Stay in Australia - Ramos Horta

28/12/01 22:05:30 | ABC Radio Australia News

East Timor reassures political asylum seekers

The Chief Minister of East Timor, Mari Alkatiri, says up to sixteen hundred asylum seekers in Australia should have no fear of returning to East Timor.

The applicants have been in Australia for up to eight years, and refugee lawyer Sue Biok says some think it's not safe to go back.

Her concern follows the Australian Government's decision to postpone applications from Afghan asylum seekers due to the changed political conditions in Kabul.

Dr Alkatiri says the East Timorese have a right to stay in Australia on some grounds, but political asylum should not be one of them.

"Really fled the country to Indonesia, up to 200-thousand are already back and not a single incident took place in this country. They have been received by their relatives by the people as a whole and not a single incident."

27 Dec 01 12:44 East Timor: 
Canberra Should Allow Refugees To Stay in Australia - Ramos Horta

Dili´s interim foreign minister, Jose Ramos Horta, appealed to Australia Thursday to reverse course and allow about 1,600 East Timorese refugees remain in the country.

Despite the "absolute peacefulness" of East Timor today, Ramos Horta told Lusa he was "appealing" to Canberra for a "gesture of solidarity".

"Many of (the refugees) contributed to the country, have families, jobs and have been exemplary residents", he said. "I think the Australian government should allow them to stay".

Ramos Horta was reacting to Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock´s decision to refuse political asylum to some 1,600 East Timorese on the basis that their homeland was now free from Indonesian rule and at peace.

Some of these refugees have been in Australia for up to eight years, awaiting documentation.

Tens of thousands of Timorese fled to Australia since the 1975 invasion by Indonesia. Many of them have returned home since the territory´s 1999 independence plebiscite.

SAS -Lusa

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