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Thursday, 9 December 1993
Page: 4260

Senator DEVEREUX —My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Senator Bolkus. I refer the minister to previous announcements he has made that visitors from the former Yugoslavia and from Sri Lanka have had their stay extended until January 1994 and ask why arrangements have been made for people from these countries after that date.

Senator BOLKUS —As Senator Devereux mentioned in his question, visitors and other temporary entrants from both Sri Lanka and the former Yugoslavia are nearing the expiry of their temporary entry permits. In June this year, I announced that visitors from both those countries would be able to extend their stay until 31 January 1994. This measure of course recognised, in the case of visitors from Sri Lanka, that while the situation and the standard of human rights in Sri Lanka were continuing to improve the situation was still sufficiently uncertain to warrant the offer of a further extension of stay. Similarly, it was clearly difficult, if not impossible, for visitors from the former Yugoslavia to return to their home countries while fighting there continued.

  In the interim, Australia has monitored the situation in both countries, and I have decided that visitors from both Sri Lanka and the former Yugoslavia should be offered a further extension of stay until 30 June 1994. Conditions are still improving in Sri Lanka. However, I hold some concern that there is continuing conflict there and that its effects are felt by the civilian population. The provision for an extended stay for people from former Yugoslavia has been available since the conflict there became entrenched. It would be unreasonable to expect people to return to their home countries while the fighting continues.

  The further extension applies to citizens from both countries who held a temporary entry permit at any time on or after 31 December 1991. The extension I am announcing today will ensure that those who are involved are not required to return while conflict persists.