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East Timorese stripped of all support.

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The Hon Warren Snowdon MP Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern Australia and the Territories Member for Lingiari

Senator Trish Crossin

Deputy Opposition Whip Senator for the Northern Terriotry

Contact: Warren Snowdon: 0419 626 601 or Trish Crossin: 0418 818 149

27 February 2003

East Timorese stripped of all support

The Department of Immigration is beginning to cut off financial and medical support to Darwin’s East Timorese asylum seekers, Labor’s two Federal representatives revealed today.

Warren Snowdon and Trish Crossin said that the Government’s instruction to the Red Cross yesterday to stop Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme payments to an elderly couple was the beginning of a potential humanitarian crisis in the community.

“In most cases, these people have already endured ten years of uncertainty,” Mr Snowdon, the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern Australia, said.

“But now the Government is taking the very bread from their tables.

“From the beginning, this Government has shown no concern for the trauma and cost of this process on these families.

“The people affected by this latest attack are mostly children and the elderly.

“Removing their medical benefits and their threadbare ASAS allowance is utterly inhumane.

“Australians will not forgive this treachery.”

Yesterday’s instruction to cut off ASAS payments to one couple follows the rejection of their appeal to the Refugee Review Tribunal last Friday, a process which cost them $1,000.

The appeal was the first of the Territory’s East Timorese asylum seekers to be rejected. It is likely that the remaining appeals will be rejected in the coming weeks.

ASAS provides basic financial and pharmaceutical support to approximately 50 NT East Timorese, mostly children, the elderly and working parents on very low incomes.

Senator Crossin said the toll of the extracted and costly process on the community was beginning to show.

“How are these people expected to survive - on the goodwill of the Northern Territory community?” Senator Crossin said.

“The Government’s treatment of these asylum seekers has been nothing less than shameless.

“It was Government neglect that created this situation; it’s now the Government’s responsibility to fix it.

“There is only one acceptable outcome for these people - the Minister must create a special humanitarian visa class that will allow all of them to stay.

“These people are Australian; they belong here.”