Subject: AAP: East Timorese man gains refugee statuts in Australia

East Timorese man gains refugee statuts

DARWIN, Oct 5 AAP - An ethnic Chinese East Timorese man gained refugee status today in an Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) decision that means Australia cannot send another 1,600 East Timorese asylum seekers to Portugal.

The tribunal also found that the United Nations Transitional Administration for East Timor (UNTAET) could not adequately protect ethnic Chinese from racial persecution, raising the hopes of other ethnic Chinese East Timorese that they will also be allowed to stay in Australia.

The 31-year-old Darwin man, who cannot be named, came to Australia in 1994 as an Indonesian citizen with a temporary visa and applied for a protection visa.

He claimed to fear for his life because of brutal and discriminatory treatment by Indonesian authorities of East Timorese such as himself who were regarded as anti-Indonesian.

The asylum application was rejected in 1995 by the Ministry for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs on the grounds that he was a Portuguese citizen and that Portugal was obliged to offer him protection under the Refugees Convention.

He appealed to the Refugee Review Tribunal which transferred the hearing to the AAT.

The AAT today ruled that he had a real and substantial fear of persecution if he were to return to East Timor.

The tribunal also found there was no effective protection available for him in East Timor, Portugal or Indonesia.

"The tribunal is satisfied that the applicant is a person to whom Australia has protection obligations under the Refugees Convention as amended by the Refugees Protocol," the tribunal said in its ruling.

"We have reached the conclusion that UNTAET cannot at this stage give adequate protection for the applicant from persecution by reason of his ethnicity.

"The return of the applicant to a country (Indonesia) which regarded the applicant and his family as anti-Indonesian would not afford him effective protection."

Although born in what was until 1975 a Portuguese colony, the tribunal could not find that the man was a Portuguese citizen under Portuguese domestic law.

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