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Nun admits role in Afghani children's consulate bid


The Brigidine Sisters late Friday finally broke a vow of silence about the Bakhtiyari brothers' last hours of freedom on the streets of Melbourne.

The congregation confirmed one of their own as the mystery woman who ushered the young Woomera escapees into the British consulate two days ago.

But Sr Brigid Arthur cannot reveal who gave the boys, aged 12 and 13, into her care.

She will only say she met Alamdar and Montazer, and the anonymous people who have been hiding them, in a car in Little Collins St on Thursday morning.

"Someone had sent me a message asking me if I could be there because they wanted to go to the British consulate," Sr Arthur said. "They were brought there by car.

"I let them (the boys) know I was a friend. I purposefully didn't talk to them after that. I thought it was kinder to them."

She said the brothers were determined to get to the consulate and claim asylum. "He was very purposeful, the young lad. He was taking the initiative."

Sr Arthur said she knows nothing else about where the boys may have been, or with whom, during their three weeks on the run.

Sr Rosemary Joyce, Victorian head of the Brigidine order, said the nuns did not instigate the consulate visit. "The boys themselves asked for protection," she said.

The Herald Sun understands the boys were shifted between a series of "safe houses" across Melbourne by refugee activists and sympathisers.

But activists, fearful of arrest, have denied knowledge of the network.

Sr Joyce also denied claims the brothers may have spent some time at their convent.

The Brigidine Sisters run a project helping asylum seekers released into the community on bridging visas. But they maintain they give no help to escapees.

LINKS
I would help them again: upset nun (SMH 20/7/02)
Detaining children an 'obscenity' (Canberra Times)
Brigidine Sisters

SOURCE
Herald-Sun

22 Jul 2002