Timorese boat people released


By Sean Lennon

MELBOURNE — About 30 members of the Timorese community gathered at Tullamarine Airport on July 20 to welcome 11 of the 18 Timorese boat people who arrived in Darwin on May 30.

Perhaps hoping to avoid a demonstration, the Immigration Department had put them on two separate flights. On their arrival, however, the boat people were given an enthusiastic welcome. They carried a banner and small paper flags calling for freedom for East Timor.

The release of the 18 followed their successful application for bridging visas which will give them access to specialist medical treatment for the torture and trauma they faced at the hands of the Indonesian military in East Timor. Such treatment is not available at the RAAF base in the remote part of Western Australia where they have been held since their arrival on May 30.

The 15 men had all been repeatedly tortured since the 1991 massacre of more than 200 people at the Santa Cruz Cemetery in Dili. The Timorese refugees will stay with the Timorese community until their fate is decided by the Immigration Department.

The release of the Timorese comes after growing criticism of the federal government's handling of refugees. Justice Nicholson of the Family Court said he could see no reason to detain boat people in "virtual concentration camps" in the wilderness while their applications for refugee status were being considered.

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