Subject: NTGOV: Rally in support of East Timorese asylum seekers

Northern Territory Government

21 March 2003 Rally in support of East Timorese asylum seekers on Sunday

Deputy Chief Minister Syd Stirling will address a rally at the Nightcliff markets on Sunday to show support for Darwinís East Timorese asylum seekers.

Darwin community groups are holding the rally to continue to raise the plight of the 86 East Timorese people awaiting a decision on their asylum status from the Federal Government.

"The Territory Government has been doing everything in its power to support these people in their bid to stay here. We believe that each of them has a special case for staying in Australia and we have been making that point strongly to the Federal Government," Mr Stirling said.

"The Territory Government has released funding to the NT Legal Aid Commission for the preparation of appeal applications to the Refugee Review Tribunal. There are 45 known cases currently being handled by Legal Aid.

"If these appeals are unsuccessful the East Timorese will be forced to leave unless Minister Ruddock exercises his discretion and allows them to stay. The Territory Government urges Minister Ruddock to show compassion for these people who have become an integral part of our community.

"The Chief Minister has also asked Minister Ruddock to allow these people to continue to receive financial support from the Asylum Seekers Assistance Scheme until their appeals against deportation orders have been finalised.

"Some of these people are elderly, unemployed or suffering from ill health ≠ it is critical that the Federal Government continues to provide them with financial support."

Mr Stirling said the NT Government was also working to ensure that, where possible, those eligible to stay under other visas were supported in their efforts.

"The Territory is a truly multi-cultural society and the plight of these East Timorese people effects all of us. We will continue to do everything in our power to fight this decision. I urge Darwin residents to show support for these members of our community by attending the rally on Sunday."

The rally will be held at 10.30am, Sunday 23 March, at the Nightcliff Markets. Other speakers include Senator Trish Crossin, Colin McDonald QC, Oscar C Nunes representing the East Timorese community and Larrakia Nation representative June Mills.

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