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Immigration Minister announces visas extension for Kosovars.



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Media Release

The Hon Philip Ruddock, MP

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

 

MPS 149/99

 

IMMIGRATION MINISTER ANNOUNCES VISA EXTENSION FOR KOSOVARS

 

The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock, today announced that the visas of 450 Kosovars who will remain in Australia beyond the end of October will be extended for a further month until 30 November 1999.

 

However, the Minister cautioned that this did not mean the Kosovars would be able to remain permanently in Australia.

 

“As I have continually said, it is not a matter of if these people will return home but when,” the Minister said.

 

“I have extended visas to allow those Kosovars currently undergoing medical treatment to complete their treatment others wishing to remain beyond the end of November have been asked to provide reasons why they should be allowed to stay longer in Australia.”

 

Mr Ruddock said that he would review any further visa extensions on a month-by month basis, in consultation With the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and any claims by the Kosovars to stay in Australia because of protection needs would be referred to the UNHCR.

 

‘If I don’t extend the visas the remaining Kosovars will become unlawful non-citizens when their visas expire on 30 October. Under Australian law, once visas expire the person must be detained and removed however, I would like to avoid an outcome of this nature at any stage.

 

“The Kosovars who came to Australia under Operation Safe Haven all agreed to temporary safe haven and also agreed to return home once it was deemed safe to do so by the UNHCR — that time has passed and it is now time for these people to return home to rebuild their lives in Kosovo,’

 

Mr Ruddock reiterated that the Winter Reconstruction Allowance, which has been available to returning Kosovars, ceases at the end of October

 

“Those Kosovars who do not leave on the last charter flight on 26 October will not be eligible for the allowance when they eventually return except for a small number currently undergoing medical treatment - they will receive the allowance if they leave as soon as they are suitably able,” Mr Ruddock said.

 

The Minister also said that he had not extended the visa of one Kosovar who had been charged with criminal offences and had breached his visa conditions.

 

 

ENDS Friday 22 October 1999

 

Media Enquiries: Susan Sare 0407 415 797

 

 

jk  1999-10-26  09:39