Concert highlights plight of Timorese asylum seekers
By Vannessa Hearman
MELBOURNE — A free concert and rally in support of East Timorese asylum seekers attracted 5000 people to the Treasury Gardens on April 20. The Painters and Dockers, Dave Graney and the Coral Snakes and the World Rhythm Ensemble entertained the crowd and promoted the theme of the day: "Let them stay".
East Timorese asylum seekers, who have been waiting from two to seven years to be granted asylum in Australia, now face deportation to Portugal. Canberra claims East Timorese are Portuguese citizens.
The rally called for the creation of a special category visa for the 1360 asylum seekers. It also publicised the Sanctuary Network: 7000 Australians who have pledged to hide, clothe and feed asylum seekers threatened with deportation.
The rally was endorsed by the East Timor Asylum Seekers' Action, Victorian Trades Hall Council, Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor, the Australia-East Timor Association and the East Timor Relief Association.
Concert-goers marched to the offices of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, where musicians from Tiddas, Things of Stone and Wood and Lothlorien entertained those who formed a "refugee camp" overnight outside the offices.