Court victory for East Timorese refugees

Issue 

Court victory for East Timorese refugees

A Federal Court judge on October 30 upheld an appeal by an East Timorese man, Kon Tji Lay, against the Refugee Review Tribunal's decision to refuse him refugee status because he was "entitled" to Portuguese nationality.

The case allows the more than 1300 East Timorese asylum seekers the right to appeal against the tribunal's position that they are Portuguese nationals.

Justice Ray Finkelston stated that the tribunal had erred in its finding that the Portuguese nationality of Lay Kon Tji was an "effective nationality".

The Portuguese government had previously stated that it would not accept East Timorese forcibly deported from Australia. A statement issued earlier in the year said that its nationality laws are "not designed to force the assimilation of East Timorese people into the Portuguese state but to positively provide them with a ... free choice".

It is not known at this stage whether the Department of Immigration will appeal against the finding of Justice Finkelston, which has buoyed the hopes of the East Timorese asylum seekers, many of whom have been living in Australia for up to seven years uncertain of their future.