Church lobbies Ruddock to keep East Timorese in Australia
President of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Francis Carroll, has written to the Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Philip Ruddock, asking that 1800 East Timorese asylum seekers, who have been in Australia for at least eight years, be allowed to stay.
Many of the asylum seekers have recently received notification from the Immigration Department that they must return to East Timor. They came to Australia for protection many years ago, and have since lived in uncertainty, waiting for a decision.
Archbishop Carroll told Mr Ruddock that it "seems unjust" to "send them away from a country which they now regard as their home".
"They would be unable to continue their education satisfactorily in East Timor," he said. "These children have become very much part of our life and culture and could contribute in many ways to our future."
In his letter, Archbishop Carroll proposes that a special visa category be formed so that these long-suffering people may be able to continue their lives in Australia with right of Permanent Residence.
Most of the East Timorese are Catholics. The Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office says they have become respected and valued members of the Church community, and the Church feels a particular responsibility for them.
In a statement released yesterday, the Office said the asylum seekers' return to East Timor would be very difficult for them and would add to the problems of the new nation.
"Many children in the group have been born in Australia and have begun their education here," said yesterday's statement. "Older children have married and started their families here. Some have acquired employment in fields of work which do not exist in East Timor."
Archbishop Carroll's move was supported by another statement, from the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes (ACLRI).
Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office/Bishops' Committee for Migrants and Refugees
Grant Residency to East Timorese in Australia (ACLRI)
Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office
Bishops' Committee for Migrants and Refugees
Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes
30 Oct 2002