East Timorese refused asylum

Issue 

East Timorese refused asylum

By Jon Lamb

Up to 700 East Timorese who have applied for asylum in Australia face deportation because they entered Australia on tourist visas. Minister for immigration Senator Bolkus stated on April 17, during an official visit to Indonesia, that the Timorese had overstayed visiting privileges and that their requests for asylum had been rejected.

In turn, Jakarta has signalled that it will prevent the Timorese returning to Indonesia because they are no longer considered Indonesian nationals who would have to apply for visas to re-enter Indonesia. As most fled East Timor to escape continuing human rights violations, it is highly unlikely that the Timoreses would seek to do so anyway.

Labor MP Laurie Ferguson called for the East Timorese to seek asylum in Portugal. Ferguson is a member of parliament's joint committee on migration, as well as, ironically, chairperson of Parliamentarians for East Timor.

Ferguson's suggestion flows from a decision earlier this year in a case before the Refugee Review Tribunal, which stated that East Timorese who qualified for Portuguese citizenship should seek asylum in Portugal.

This is in conflict with the federal government's official position that Indonesia should be regarded as the sole governing body over East Timor.

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