Subject: ABC: Community fears for E Timorese group being sent home

ABC NewsOnline

September 10, 2006

Community fears for E Timorese group being sent home

Australian East Timor activists say the Federal Government's decision to send a group of 42 refugees back to the country does not make sense because East Timor is still unstable.

The 42 East Timorese have been living in Melbourne and Darwin for the last three months on temporary protection visas, after they fled their home to escape civil unrest earlier this year.

The Immigration Department informed them on Friday that their visas would run out on Monday.

Australians for a Free East Timor activist Rob Wesley-Smith says it is bizarre for the Federal Government to send the group back while the security situation is still unpredictable.

"At the same time that John Howard is saying he's got to send extra troops to East Timor, another arm of his Government is saying it is okay for people who are utterly stressed out to rush back with three days' notice," he said.

"[We] don't even know if there will be an aircraft available for them."

He says the decision to send the 42 East Timorese people back is inconsiderate because some of them are in a poor psychological state and the situation in Dili is still unstable.

"A lot of them are very stressed out, I was with one and some crackers [went off] up the street and he was very disturbed," he said.

"You have to remember that there is still about half of the Dili population is in refugee camps.

"Some of these refugee camps are being attacked by up to 150 people."

Jose Gusmao, a member of Darwin's East Timorese community, says many among the group of 42 are scared to return home.

"I know that the Government have to make decision, I agree," he said.

"But on the other hand, I mean as human being I feel ... we should have given them more time."

Mr Gusmao says the families should have been given more time to prepare for their return journey.

The Immigration Department says the 42 people were given a two-week extension to their temporary visas and have been notified of their departure date.

The department says it is satisfied they will not be targeted when they return home to East Timor tomorrow.

But Epifano Faculto, who is among the group of 42 and has been living in Darwin for the last three months, says he is scared to go home.

"The situation is today is better, but maybe tomorrow is not better," he said.

He says he and his family respect the decision of the Australian Government to send them back to their homeland, but they are nervous about returning.


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