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Thursday, 10 March 1977

Mr INNES -The Minister is not dealing with applications for dog licences. He is dealing with people. He is dealing with the relatives of Australian citizens who form a significant ethnic group in Australia and who have made an important social, cultural and commercial contribution to Australian society for generations. These refugees should not be allowed to languish on Cyprus or anywhere else because Australia is too niggardly to send more immigration officers or more medical officers to Nicosia. Medical reports are now being sent back to Australia for processing. When we had a medical person in the task force, they were processed there.

Lebanese people in Australia should not have to continue to bear the intolerable financial burden of sustaining the people on Cyprus. It is monstrous that people should have been abandoned for up to 6 or 7 months, in a strange land, when everything they had been told led them to believe that they would be on their way to Australia and the company of their relatives within 2 or 3 weeks of leaving their homeland. At one other post, Athens, it seems that the processing can be expedited in another way. The Minister's adviser might be able to give him an explanation which he can give to the House. Misunderstanding and bungling have characterised this Government's handling of the Lebanese refugee situation. The Government must bear a heavy responsibility because Australia's international reputation, as well as the lives of hundreds of people, are involved in a speedy solution to this problem.

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