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									                                                         East Timor-Protection Visa Discussions
                                                                        Agenda
                                                              Thursday 14th November 1pm
                                                                     Chellew Roon
                                                                        NCCA
       Present:
       Throughout these notes when referring to East Timorese Asylum Seekers I have used the shortened form ETAS. If people feel this is inappropriate please contact
       me.

Ainslie Hannan            Brotherhood of St           ahannan@bsl.org.au         (03) 9416 0044             Produced a recent publication including East Timorese       A/W
                          Lawrence/Ecumenical                                                               case Studies and involved with various programs that
                          Migration Centre (BSL                                                             encompass ETAS.
                          and EMC)
Caz Coleman               National Council of         ccoleman@ncca.org.au       (03) 9650 6811             Support member churches who are involved with ETAS          A/W
                          Churches -Christian                                                               and encourage others to be active..
                          World Service
                          (NCCA/CWS)
Jackie Dillon             Refugee Council of          rcoa.vic@bsl.org.au        (03) 9416 0044             Peak refugee body representing organisations working
                          Australia (RCOA)                                                                  with East Timorese
Shirley Carlos            Carers Victoria             Shirleyc@carersvic.org.    (03) 9315 2240             Carers Vic is concerned for those ETAS who are              A/W
                                                      au                                                    currently caring for family members or who have
                                                                                                            significant health or torture/trauma issues and who will
                                                                                                            lose ASAS after RRT stage.
Li Himm Lai               Timorese Ethnic             Tecc_vic@hotmail.com       (03) 9429 5003             ETAS are a major concern for the committee                  A/W
                          Chinese in Victoria
                          (TECC)
Colin Briton              Red Cross                   cbriton@vic.redcross.or    (03) 8327 7700             Red Cross is co-ordinating ASAS managing these              A/W
                                                      g.au                                                  clients, most of whom are from the East Timorese
                                                                                                            community.
Justin McInerney          Caritas Australia           justinmc@caritas.org.au    (03) 9267 0266             Education officer working on refugee and asylum
                                                                                                            seeker policy and recently visited ET with a group of
                                                                                                            teachers.
Kit Lazaroo,              City of Yarra East          kitlaz@yahoo.com           (03) 9486 68874            Assisting ETAS and other asylum seekers with health
                          Timorese task force and                                                           needs.
                          Bulla Bulla Health
                          project
Leesl Wegner              Red Cross                   lwegner@vic.redcross.o     (03) 8327 7700             ETAS case worker
                                                      rg.au
Stancea Vichie,           Asylum Seeker Project   asp1@sub.net.au           (03) 9326 8343   Working with asylum seekers in the community who are      A/W
                          (ASP) associated with                                              not elligible for benefits or work rights
                          Hotham Mission
Grant Mitcham             Asylum Seeker Project   asp@sub.net.au            (03) 9326 8343   Working with asylum seekers in the community who are      A/W
                          (ASP) associated with                                              not elligible for benefits or work rights
                          Hotham Mission and
                          NASA Vic
Katherine                 Asylum Seeker Project   As above                  As above         As above
                          (ASP) associated with
                          Hotham Mission
Paul Fisher.              Victorian Legal Aid     paulf@vla.vog.gov.au      (03) 9269 0219   Representing directly or indirectly around 700 asylum
                          (VLA)                                                              seekers, currently have approx 300 cases on their books
Jaom Fisher               Refugee and             jaomf@rilc.org.au         (03) 9483 1142   Providing legal assistance to ETAS.
                          Immigration Legal
                          Centre (RILC)
Brenda Hubber             Melbourne Catholic      mcmro@melbourne.cath      (03) 9926 5720   Supporting Catholic parishes with large numbers of East
                          Migrant and Refugee     olic.org.au                                Timorese in the membership or associated with the
                          office                                                             parish.
Caroline Butterworth      City of Yarra           butterwc@yarracity.vicg   (03) 9205 5732   Supporting ETAS in the local community and                A/W
                                                  ov.au                                      encouraging local business, schools and community
                                                                                             groups to support.
Alexander Brown,          Medecins Sans           jacquitong@sydney.msf.    (02) 9552 4933   operational in East Timor, interested in gaps in the
Project Manager for       Frontieres Australia    org                                        health care system
Border Stories, Medicin   (MSF)
Sans Frontier MSF
Jackie Tung, MSF


       Apologies: Sherron Dunbar
1. General briefing of current legal context (Jaom Fisher/Paul Fisher)

Paul Fisher presented a general overview of the current context for ETAS and the Protection Visa
application process.
Paul referred to the background brief as a basic overview and complimented it with the following
comments and recommendations.

The Refugee Review Tribunal is currently giving priority to East Timorese applicants, the first of
which have been scheduled for late November and early December. However, as more applicants
are rejected at the initial stage (as is expected) the tribunal will have a greater demand and
therefore applicants will have a longer period of time waiting for review.

Most East Timorese applicants are being represented by VLA or RILC. However, some are un-
represented and need to be contacted for referral.

Given the current socio-political context of East Timor most decisions are unlikely to be
approved. Processing is occurring in batches with more expected to come out next month, appeal
to RRT ensues. A small number of applicants have already been decided, these applicants were
at a different stage when the visa processing was frozen 5 years ago. These applicants are
currently appealing for Ministerial intervention under Section 417 of the Migration Act.

Ministerial review (or substitution of a favourable decision) is the final stage of review open to
applicants and is likely to be the best chance of success in terms of a special visa category being
developed and granted.

For those with trauma and torture issues - where it is evidenced that there is a possibility of
trauma issues arising upon return to East Timor- are having some success at the Ministerial
review stage. 15 applicants have received a positive response with Ministerial intervention, the
Minister has rejected 4 or 5 and still undecided on 2 or 3. (These were intervened upon the basis
of having significant links with Australia and/or torture and trauma issues).

VLA and RILC are planning to take all RRT rejections to the Minister for review. The difficulty
is that individuals will lose work rights (except where they may be re-instated) and ASAS
payment after rejection at RRT stage so extended delays at this third stage of review will create a
significant welfare need.
Work Rights can be re-instated (for those who were originally eligible for them) when the
minister considers exercising his discretion on the appeal, however, where this indication has not
been given, work rights are not re-instated. This does not included ASAS which cannot be
accessed at all post-RRT.

The Minister may only consider exercising his discretion after a period of months which is a
difficulty for applicants in the meantime.

The meeting was opened up to questions to which both Jaom and Paul responded.
The question was asked as to what kind of circumstances may include fear of persecution upon
return.
Fear of persecution may include perceived collaboration with Indonesian administration, Chinese
descent (Hakka speaking citizens), vulnerability due to affluence or perceived affluence gained in
Australia and potential extortion threats, mixed marriage etc
A question was raised concerning Ministerial intervention (under S417 of the Migration Act) on
humanitarian grounds and at what stage information regarding justification of intervention on
these grounds is included in the application.
Humanitarian issues and supporting information should have been included in the application for
a primary decision. This was done with the foresight of the need to speed up the procees from
RRT rejection to Ministerial review .

A question was raised concerning whether there existed an Onshore Special Visa Category that
may be granted to ETAS.
No onshore Special Visa Category currently exists for the ET applicants to be given, therefore a
new one is likely to have to be created (perhaps with a window period that dictates arrival time
and application time and a window of opportunity for applying).

A question was raised concerning access to Centrelink benefits upon approval of a Permanent
Visa.
There may be a possible two year bar upon granting of Permanent Visa in terms of accessing
centre link benefits unless there is an argument for being able to lift this bar.

Recommendations
• Encourage the minister to make a blanket statement concerning consideration of the decisions
   in order to allow individuals to regain work rights. This would mean a small pool of people
   could be working and would reduce the welfare demand.

•   Lobbying the Prime Minister to create a special visa class (Minister for Immigration is in
    support of this and has already attempted on two occasions). Note previous incidence of this
    in regard to the 20,000 Chinese Students that were allowed to remain in Australia after the
    1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

•   Re-inforce the East Timorese government, (in particular Ramos Horta’s) calls for East
    Timorese to be able to stay or at least given a choice.

•   Avoid inflammatory and incorrect language in any advocacy in terms of deportation and
    rejections of visas in particular where that will cause distress for the East Timorese
    community.

•   Encourage discussion around those who will not be able to be supported through work rights.


2. National strategic context and current actions (Colin Briton/Jacki Dillon)

Jacki Dillon from RCOA reported on the following National context:
Other state are dealing with the issue on a smaller scale due to the lack of numbers. Most ETAS
are in Victoria and therefore other state are interested in linking in with Vic initiatives.

Darwin
Darwin has 80 cases approx 29 families receiving ASAS from the Red Cross.
RILC provided training for Migration Agents in Darwin, however, there will be a delay in
registration and there is only one Legal Aid advisor practising who is currently about to hand over
a new worker -
The Mulitcultural Council has a family resources officer working with families and exploring
financial assistance.
Darwin would appreciate any support in terms of advocacy

NSW
Sisters of St. Joseph have a petition which is being widely circulated.
Leaders of Religious Institutes have a statement
Red Cross hosting a similar meeting on 29th Nov which will be a possible avenue for co-operation
and support and advocacy on a wider scale.

Other national groups that should be contacted included:
Australian East Timor Association
ACFOA

3. Victorian context and current actions (Li Lay/Colin Briton)

Sanctuary Network is being re-formed and should be included in any plans for advocacy and
mobilising community support.

City of Yarra Yarra ET Asylum Seeker Task force is very active on local advocacy issues,
grassroots welfare through local business, fundraising and using local business and community
houses to support it. It is linked with a Sydney church group and has a petition with over 7,000
signatures for state and Federal government. Very active local arts community and other local
groups are contributing to the Task Force activities. The possibility of passing on Caroline’s
material to other councils was raised and should be explored in particular through the VLGA.

The support of the State Government was raised. Grant indicated that the State Government has
already agreed in principle to include asylum seekers for HEF fund and Utility Relief Grants.
Whilst this has still not been approved in writing it was pointed out that the upcoming elections
may have an impact on such decisions. Grant to follow up with the committee by email post-
election to encourage organisations to write to confirm this offer.

Jaom pointed out that the current State Government has been supportive in funding weekend
clinics for ETAS.

The possibility of a Welfare Round-Table was raised although consultation with NASA Vic is
essential to any proposals. ASP Hotham and NCCA will continue to pursue this however,
suggestions are most welcome.

The question was raised as to whether the Red Cross would be in a position to deliver services if
the funds were made available.
Colin Briton reported that the Red Cross is in the position to deliver services if the funding is able
to be supplied.

4. Planning for co-operation

Due to time constraints the remainder of the agenda was not able to be addressed.
The suggestion was made that there should be two groups formed, one working on general
advocacy issues and one concentrating on the welfare response.
The question was raised about why we need to set up another group and whether we can link in
with other groups. The point was raised that the ET community need a specific focus and energy
behind them and that other groups do not have the time to focus specifically on this. However, it
was noted that co-operation with other asylum seeker and refugee groups will be essential as will
co-operation between the groups.

It was agreed that the NCCA would co-ordinate setting up these two meetings.

The meeting concluded at 3:10pm

								
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