Sending asylum seekers to East Timor raises many questions

Australia’s largest aid agency today urged the Australian Government to immediately provide details on its plan to establish a regional processing centre for asylum seekers in East Timor. 

World Vision Australia said it was concerned with the number of apparent gaps in the asylum seeker policy announced today. 

“This policy risks outsourcing the nation’s problems to another developing country in our region,” World Vision CEO Rev Tim Costello said. 

“At this point in time, East Timor is in no position to house a refugee community. It is still a young country focused on its own development as a nation following recent instability and conflict. 

“The government urgently needs to provide details on how it plans to fund and integrate this kind of facility into the East Timorese community.” 

Rev Costello said there were also questions remaining around how the Australian Government would contribute to addressing the humanitarian issues that result in desperate people fleeing their homelands. 

“As Prime Minister Julia Gillard said, the ebb and flow of asylum seekers arriving on our shores had more to do with the deterioration of conditions in countries with direct sea routes to Australia, rather than with Australia’s border protection policies,” Rev Costello said. 

“World Vision is still waiting for details on how the new Gillard Government plans to assist poor communities as part of its responsibility as a good global citizen.” 

The government’s plan also lacks details on how the children of families seeking asylum will be treated at the proposed off-shore regional processing centre. The latest Immigration Department figures have revealed 508 people under the age of 18 were being housed in alternative detention accommodation as of June 11. 

“One of World Vision’s primary concerns is how the children of families seeking asylum will be treated. We know detention has a negative impact on children and we ask for the government to consider this when fleshing out the details of its policy.” 

The Opposition’s plan to permit additional refugees to be settled in Australia under a community sponsorship model was worth exploring but its repetition of a policy to ‘turn back the boats’ offered no solution, Rev Costello said. 

- Ends - 

Tim Costello is available for media interviews. 

Media contact 

Sacha Myers, World Vision Australia media officer, on 0457 926 018 or 03 9287 2359

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