BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor .........home .........August news

"... as you know I received a call from Foreign Minister Downer yesterday asking us to consider the possibility of allowing these asylum seekers to disembark in East Timor. I told him that I would consult with the East Timorese as well as UNHCR, since UNHCR is the main UN player in these questions. But ... I have been informed by Minister Downer that the East Timor option, which was being looked at among others, will not be pursued any longer." Special Representative of the Secretary General Sergio de Mello, UN
"We understand Australia’s dilemma [that it will open a floodgate]. Human traffic is indeed a very serious problem. But we cannot say because there might be a floodgate of human trafficking … let those people, women and children, stay in high seas indefinitely. Someone has to have the moral leadership, moral courage, to find a solution to this problem. I just hope Australia, as a great, generous country, extremely rich, can accommodate temporarily these 400 people." Cabinet Member for Foreign Affairs Dr Jose Ramos-Horta
See also:
Sep 5 UN; S-G rejects Australian proposal on Afghan refugees  Release
Aug 31 FAETTA: Response to MV Tampa Refugees  Release

 

FAETTA: Latest on Tampa refugees

Please find attached transcripts of door-stops just conducted with:
   -Cabinet Member for Foreign Affairs Dr Jose Ramos-Horta &
   -Special Representative of the Secretary General Sergio de Mello

Regards,

Caroline O’Brien


Department of Foreign Affairs
East Timor Transitional Administration

31 August 2001, 7PM

For Immediate Release

SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL SERGIO DE MELLO’S
DOOR STOP ON THE TAMPA REFUGEES

The transcript of Sergio de Mello’s door-stop interview, in front of the United Nations Transitional Administration East Timor (UNTAET) headquarters at 7pm Dili time, follows.

Sergio de Mello:

The latest is as follows: as you know I received a call from Foreign Minister Downer yesterday asking us to consider the possibility of allowing these asylum seekers to disembark in East Timor. I told him that I would consult with the East Timorese as well as UNHCR, since UNHCR is the main UN player in these questions. But in the meantime, and this is information I received about an hour ago, I have been informed by Minister Downer that the East Timor option, which was being looked at among others, will not be pursued any longer.

Question from the media:
Why?

Sergio de Mello:

I did not ask him why. Secondly I have been in touch with Durban, and I have been informed that the Secretary-General is discussing this matter with the High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Lubbers, who is there, as well as with other main players, presumably Australia, Norway, and other countries. So I think East Timor is out of the picture.

Question from the media:

Was the decision by Australia unilateral?

Sergio de Mello:

Certainly we did not persuade them. You know what our position was, José Ramos- Horta has stated it clearly, and I share it. I suppose it was a decision they took on their own.

Question from the media:

Are you relieved?

Sergio de Mello:

In a sense yes, although you know it is not a matter of receiving 434 human beings. We probably would have done that had UNHCR asked us to do it, but we have enough problems of our own, I wouldn’t have wanted to be stuck here with a group of persons that no one else would accept, who presumably would feel frustrated after a while. I don’t need that right now, we have other urgent problems

- ends -


Department of Foreign Affairs
East Timor Transitional Administration

31 August 2001, 6:30PM

For Immediate Release

CABINET MEMBER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS DR JOSE RAMOS-HORTA’S
DOOR STOP ON THE TAMPA REFUGEES

The transcript of Dr Ramos-Horta’s door-stop interview, in front of the United Nations Transitional Administration East Timor (UNTAET) headquarters at 6:30pm Dili time, follows.

Dr Ramos-Horta:

Because we were mentioned as a possible destination by Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer, Mr Sergio de Mello contacted us.  I have discussed with Bishop Belo, Xanana Gusmao, Mari Alkatiri, and we concur ­ the Timorese side ­ that if necessary, if the countries in the region cannot resolve the problem, we, Timorese cannot also turn our back to refugees on high seas, and, we say in spite of our poverty we offer our country as a place of asylum, temporary shelter, until a third country is found for them.  But also with the condition that the international community shoulders the burden.

Question from the media:

Won’t it open a floodgate?

Dr Ramos-Horta:

We understand Australia’s dilemma.  Human traffic is indeed a very serious problem.  But we cannot say because there might be a floodgate of human trafficking … let those people, women and children, stay in high seas indefinitely.  Someone has to have the moral leadership, moral courage, to find a solution to this problem.  I just hope Australia, as a great, generous country, extremely rich, can accommodate temporarily these 400 people.

- ends -

For further information contact:

Ms Caroline O’Brien
Media Liaison Officer  Department of Foreign Affairs
East Timor Transitional Administration
Telephone: (East Timor and Australia) 0417 879 953
(International) +61 (0)417 879 953
Email: contact_carolineo@hotmail.com


José Ramos-Horta

* Mr Jose Ramos-Horta is an internationally-renowned spokesperson for the East Timorese cause. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for “sustained efforts to hinder the oppression of small people”.

* Mr Ramos-Horta has been a dynamic and determined advocate for a free and independent East Timor. From 1976 until 1989, he was the permanent representative of the Frente Revolucionaria de Timor Leste Independente (FRETILIN) at the United Nations.  He currently holds the position of Cabinet Member for Foreign Affairs, United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor.


See also:

Sep 5 UN; S-G rejects Australian proposal on Afghan refugees  Release added Sep 6
"The Secretary-General has discussed with his Special Representative for East Timor, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ruud Lubbers, Australia’s latest proposal to process in East Timor Afghan nationals currently stranded on a Norwegian container ship. The Secretary-General’s answer is “no.” He continues to support as sound and viable the UNHCR plan. That plan calls for the Afghans to be brought to Christmas Island in Australia, as the ship is currently in Australian territorial waters." Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan, United Nations

Aug 31 FAETTA: Response to MV Tampa Refugees  Release added Sep 1
"This is a matter for Indonesia and Australia to sort out. The two countries have a primary responsibility, not East Timor, ... If we are approached by the Australian Government, by UNHCR, to help, certainly East Timor will be looking at this possibility of receiving refugees favourably. This is my own opinion, shared with Bishop Belo, Xanana Gusmao and Mari Alkatiri, with whom I have consulted already. However there are two conditions and they are very strict: 1. That the International Community shoulder exclusively the financial burden of sheltering and feeding these refugees; 2. That it be for a limited amount of time." Nobel Peace prize Laureate Dr Jose Ramos-Horta


BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor .........home .........August news
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