31 August 2001
For Immediate Release
EAST TIMOR’S RESPONSE TO REFUGEES
Cabinet Member for Foreign Affairs, Nobel Peace prize Laureate Dr Jose Ramos-Horta has released the following statement on the 460 refugees on board the MV Tampa today:
This is a matter for Indonesia and Australia to sort out. The two countries have a primary responsibility, not East Timor, but at the same time we want to be true to our own history, our own legacy. East Timor benefited enormously from international generosity.
Thousands of our refugees were welcomed and sheltered and fed, in some countries, particularly Australia and Portugal.
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
- 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
* 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.
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
31 FAETTA: Latest on Tampa refugees Interviews added Sep
"... 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."
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