AUSTRALIAN Catholic Bishops Conference president, Archbishop Francis Carroll of Canberra and Goulburn has called on Federal Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock to allow about 1800, mostly Catholic, East Timorese asylum seekers to remain in Australia.
In a letter to the minister on October 24, the archbishop begged Mr Ruddock to give the matter his ‘urgent and sympathetic’ attention.
The East Timorese asylum seekers have been in Australia for at least eight years and many had recently received notice that they should return to East Timor.
The East Timorese asylum seekers have been in Australia for a least eight years and many had recently received notice that they should return to East Timor.
Although Archbishop Carroll acknowledged that the situation in East Timor had improved, he said many of the group would face difficulties if they returned to East Timor.
‘The country is very poor and there is practically no work.
‘Most would have no homes and could expect little support from impoverished relatives – the consequences are predictable – living on the streets and involvement in crime.’
In the letter, Archbishop Carroll proposed that a special visa category be set up that would allow East Timorese in Australia the right of permanent residence ‘if they so desired’.
He said there were good reasons why the group should be allowed to stay in Australia with the right of permanent residence.
‘They have integrated into the Australian community … and since many of them are Catholics they have become respected and valued members of our Church community.
‘We feel particular responsibility for them – a responsibility the Church has actively sought to fulfil during the years they have been in Australia.’
The Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes (ACLRI) supported Archbishop Carroll’s call to let the East Timorese stay.
ACLRI executive director, Josephite Sister Mary Cresp, speaking for Catholic and Anglican religious congregations, said strong bonds had been forged between the expatriate East Timorese and Australia’s religious communities
‘The resilience, faith and optimism the expatriates have shown since the 1975 invasion of their country is matched only by their patience in submitting and resubmitting their applications for Australian residency,’ Sr Cresp said.
‘We pray that the anxieties they feel today may be removed by the Federal Government’s granting them permanent residency status.’
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