Friday January 7 2005 8:20am WST
For Immediate Release
Refugee lobby group Project SafeCom has expressed reservations about the options for an intake into Australia of tsunami victims after Immigration minister Amanda Vanstone had indicated that Australia may well use its humanitarian visa program to welcome displaced people amongst these 'envirogees'.
"While we have already indicated that Australia should consider its obligations to tsunami victims, including a welcoming to Australia, we do not have a good record of maintaining that welcome,", spokesman Jack Smit said.
"The way we have treated the East Timorese who arrived as refugees borders on a scandal, which was only averted through what became a strong community outcry, when we left them to hang high and dry on temporary visas and send them notice to remove themselves from Australia, and it took powerful lobbying from backbenchers and high-profile Australians to make the Howard government see some sense".
"Right now, we're doing the same thing to about 500 Sri Lankans in the Australian community - who we deprive of all rights by forcing them to live on what Project SafeCom cynically calls the "Living-under-the-Bridges-Visa".
We've just told those families who, like the Timorese, have lived in Australia for up to ten years and who have Australian-born children, we've told them on Christmas eve to start packing their bags to leave Australia.
"Minister Vanstone may well say that we'll help the tsunami victims, but if that means we'll just offer temporary visas, we withhold an opportunity for those who would arrive to truly get on with their lives. Many of the tsunami victims have their places of residence obliterated forever, and they should be offered permanent places, together with their families, if they choose this.
For more information: Jack H Smit, phone 0417 090 130
Australia may take in tsunami survivors
ABC ONLINE NEWS
Thursday, January 6, 2005. 1:11pm (AEDT)
The Federal Government has raised the possibility of accepting refugees from Asian countries affected by the Boxing Day tsunami.
Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone says Australia's overall aid to the affected region is being assessed daily.
"Our refugee and humanitarian intake is settled on an annual basis on advice from the UN as to where we should take people from," she said.
"Where there's been a disaster or a crisis has broken out, frequently our intake then shifts to that area to meet that need.
"It's just too early at this stage to tell whether that will happen.
For more information:
Jack H Smit
[phone number posted]