Subject: Archbishop Carroll welcomes East Timor visa decision

Catholic News

June 5, 2003

Archbishop Carroll welcomes East Timor visa decision

Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference President, Archbishop Francis Carroll, yesterday described Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock's decision to allow 379 East Timorese asylum seekers to stay in Australia as a happy outcome of a 10-year battle.

Archbishop Carroll said he is now hopeful that Mr Ruddock will extend permanent residency to the remaining East Timorese asylum seekers whose claims were being considered.

Mr Ruddock indicated yesterday that more than 1500 East Timorese asylum seekers are expected to be granted permanent residency by October.

He has already intervened to reverse decisions to return a group of 379 asylum seekers and is reviewing another 200 cases, which he promised will be dealt with as quickly as possible.

"We welcome Mr Ruddock's positive determination in these cases and urge him to grant the same consideration to the remainder of the 1600 East Timorese asylum seekers in Australia," Archbishop Carroll said.

"While Mr Ruddock has not agreed to our request that he create a special category of visa to accommodate the special circumstances of these people, we none the less acknowledge with gratitude his personal intervention in their cases."

Archbishop Carroll has written twice to Mr Ruddock to seek the creation of a special visa category for the East Timorese asylum seekers, most of whom are active members of the Catholic community and have lived in Australia for a decade.

Other advocates for the Timorese from within the Catholic Church have welcomed the breakthrough. Coordinator of the Broome Diocesan Office of Justice, Ecology and Peace Br Shane Wood paid credit to Mr Ruddock for "being prepared to listen to the representations made on behalf of these people by so many in the Australian community".

He said it gives reason to hope for a similar change of heart in relation to other asylum seekers looking for fair treatment.

"My sincere hope is that he will be able to show the same compassion and willingness to listen when it comes to our disgraceful record regarding the way we treat other asylum seekers."

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Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

Media Release June 4, 2003

Archbishop welcomes move on East Timorese asylum seekers

Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock’s decision to allow almost 400 East Timorese asylum seekers to stay in Australia was a happy and encouraging outcome in a 10-year-battle, Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference President, Archbishop Francis Carroll said today.

Archbishop Carroll said he was now hopeful that Mr Ruddock would extend permanent residency to the remaining East Timorese asylum seekers whose claims are still being considered.

Mr Ruddock yesterday told parliament that subject to health and character checks, he would intervene to grant 379 East Timorese people permanent visas. He said he was working through other similar requests.

“We welcome Mr Ruddock’s positive determination in these cases and urge him to grant the same consideration to the remainder of the 1600 East Timorese asylum seekers in Australia,” Archbishop Carroll said.

“While Mr Ruddock has not agreed to our request that he create a special category of visa to accommodate the special circumstances of these people, we nonetheless acknowledge with gratitude his personal intervention in their cases.”

Archbishop Carroll has written twice to Mr Ruddock to seek the creation of a special visa category for the East Timorese asylum seekers, most of whom are active members of the Catholic community and have lived in Australia for a decade.

They fled strife-torn East Timor in the 1990s and have been on bridging visas ever since, fearing a return to their impoverished and unstable homeland. Many of their children have only ever lived in Australia.

Archbishop Carroll said the level of support for them within the community was demonstrated with 40,000 signatures on a national petition, which he presented personally to the Minister during a brief meeting on the matter in December.

For more information contact Debra Way at the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference on 02 6201 9859 or 0414 880 475.

 


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