Cautious welcome for Govt about-face on Timorese

Advocate on behalf of East Timorese in Australia, Sr Susan Connelly, has said the Immigration Minister's change of heart on her decision to immediately deport 50 East Timorese asylum seekers who have been living in Australia for more than a decade.

Sr Connelly stressed that the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs announcement allows only for a reconsideration of the cases of those affected, and it does not mean that they can necessarily stay.

"Some good news," she said. "It's not over yet, but this is very positive."

The Minister for Immigration, Amanda Vanstone, announced yesterday that the cases, "recently advised that their request for Ministerial intervention had been unsuccessful, will now be reconsidered".

"A number of the East Timorese asylum seekers have asked that their cases be reconsidered and have provided new information in support of their claims since the time that they were advised that their request for intervention had been unsuccessful," she said. "In the circumstances, I have asked the Department to refer back to me all cases in which I and my predecessor declined to intervene. This is to ensure consistency and fairness in making final decisions across the caseload.

Meanwhile The Age reports today that a planned Sunday vigil for the refugees at St Ignatius Catholic Church in Richmond, Melbourne, with Bishop Hilton Deakin presiding, would be changed to a thanksgiving service.

Spokesperson and East Timorese asylum seeker support worker at the North Richmond Community Health Centre, Etervina Groenen, said the minister's move offered the refugees "breathing space" and "everyone is breathing a sigh of relief".

She hailed Senator Vanstone for letting "common sense" prevail. It showed the Government was listening to community concerns, she said.

She was hopeful of a positive outcome and said: "The present Federal Government had been much more willing to acknowledge that the East Timorese have suffered than the government before it."

A decision could be expected in two to three weeks, with the asylum seekers maintaining their exiting bridging visas and work rights, she said.

Sister Susan Connelly: Good News on Timorese Deportees (Mary MacKillop Institute of East Timorese Studies 19/5/05)
Asylum seekers granted reprieve (The Age 20/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
East Timorese Caseload Will be Reconsidered (Senator Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs 19/5/05)
Mary MacKillops Institute of East Timorese Studies

Vanstone to reconsider E Timor asylum seeker cases (ABC News 19/5/05)

20 May 2005