Parish stands up for rejected asylum seeker family
The parish priest of Wodonga in Victoria's Sandhurst Diocese has rallied the local community to support a family of asylum seekers from Kosovo that has failed to gain official refugee status and the right to stay in Australia.
The family, part of a large contingent of Kosovars to arrive in Australia in 1999 for temporary protection, have reportedly integrated well into the local NSW-Victorian border community.
The Border Mail says "more than 300 pupils, staff and parents at St Augustines Primary School have formed a protective circle around the eight members of the much loved family".
Monsignor Frank Marriott, the parish preist, said he could not understand why the Government would turn the Halimi family away when they were working, had settled in the community and were actively participating in the Australian way of life.
"We are trying very desperately here to alert people in Canberra or in the department or whoever they are to really sit down and have a good hard look," he said.
"I know that circumstances were different seven years ago, they are different again today and they will be different again tomorrow.
"It seems to me that we have a very good family and they are doing their best for the community; becoming very good Australians and we want to kick them out, it just doesnt make sense."
School principal Mrs Pat McConvill said seven-year-old Mentor Halimi was excelling in Grade 1 and had many friends at the school.
"He is one of us, the family are very supportive, they come along to parent information nights and they are part of the community," she said.
"Mentor is a young child that has been given a second chance to have a life here.
On a visit to Albury-Wodonga last August, Cardinal George Pell have his support to six local Kosovar families who were fighting threatened deportation to their homeland.
"I would be surprised if they are forced to return," he said. "They have been here five years. If they are law-abiding citizens, working productively and happily, and the local community wants them, I cant see any reason at all why they should be forcibly repatriated."
Local businesses were already campaigning to have the asylum seekers remain, as the rapidly growing regional centre has been facing an employment skills shortage.
Phil Bretherton of Wodonga parish said at the time: "Most of these families have settled well into their communities and their recovery from torture and trauma has generally been aided because of substantial support provided by local communities."
A plea from their mates: School seeks help in letter campaign (The Border Mail 26/2/05)
Diocese of Sandhurst
Pell says let Kosovars stay in Australia (CathNews 23/8/04)
Local church backs business calls for Kosovars to stay (CathNews 5/8/04)
28 Feb 2005