Subject: AGE: Bracks pledges aid for Timorese fight to stay

Also Cash boost for E Timor asylum seekers; An Australian state Premiers helps East Timorese

Bracks pledges aid for Timorese fight to stay

March 12 2003 By Larissa Dubecki

The State Government will give financial aid to about 1600 East Timorese refugees in Australia fighting to gain permanent residency status.

A $50,000 grant, announced yesterday, will help pay for their legal costs.

Premier Steve Bracks reiterated his support for a special class of humanitarian visa for all East Timorese refugees in Australia, a proposal put to Federal Parliament by Labor.

The announcement was made at West Richmond primary school, where 22 East Timorese children are students.

"Most of these students have been here their whole lives. Most, if not all, have not been to East Timor," Mr Bracks said. "This is a ridiculous situation... (The Federal Government) needs to change quickly its decision and make sure visas are issued."

But the Federal Government criticised the move as discriminatory to other groups, and said it could raise false hopes among asylum seekers that they could stay in Australia permanently.

"We assume he'll be offering (the funding) to all Victorians rather than working on a discriminatory basis," a spokesman for Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said. "If there's no lawful basis on which to stay, he's encouraging further delay in the system."

Opposition immigration spokeswoman Julia Gillard said a new class of visa was appropriate, because processing of East Timorese claims was stopped in 1995 and resumed only last June.

"It is true to say that these people no longer have valid refugee claims, because the administration of East Timor has fundamentally changed from the days in which they fled persecution," she said.

"But... they have a special case to stay. Many have been there eight to 10 years."

Applications from 1095 East Timorese have been refused. Another 500 await decisions and 147 have been granted permanent residency.

- with AAP

Cash boost for E Timor asylum seekers

East Timorese asylum seekers in the southern Australian state of Victoria, have received a AUD$50,000 grant from the state government to help fund their campaign against a deportation order.

About 1,600 people fled to Australia from East Timor around the time of the Dili Massacre in the early 1990s.

Their application for protection visas was delayed for years, and now the federal government says they should go home because there is no further threat of persecution.

Most of the asylum seekers live in Victoria. State Premier Steve Bracks says they should be allowed to stay, along with their children who are now in school.

"Most of these students have been here their whole life, some were born here, most came here when they were children, most if not all have not been to East Timor," he said.

But Victoria's opposition leader Robert Doyle says the federal government has taken all factor into account and is right to say they should be deported.

11/03/2003 19:07:00 | ABC Radio Australia News

An Australian state Premiers helps East Timorese

The premier of the Australian state of Victoria, Steve Bracks says Australia should grant 16-hundred East Timorese asylum seekers permanent residency.

Many of the East Timorese who fled their country as refugees 10 years ago, have now made their home in Victoria.

The federal Immigration Department says they must return to East Timor because they were only granted temporary residence.

The Victorian state government has announced a 50-thousand dollar grant to the East Timorese community to help pay their legal costs while their status is determined.

11/03/2003 14:04:26 | ABC Radio Australia News

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