Oz-ET asylum seekers/Ruddock statement/need for media replies
Some suggested arguments for letter writing over Ruddock’s latest decision to deport 1600 Timorese asylum seekers from Australia.
Jefferson Lee email@example.com
1. Letters to the editor should stress that to allow 1600 to finish education -TAFE, high school, uni, etc. would be a far more “cost effective” form of aid than many of the current projects operating inside East Timor. In short, the cost of resettling these 1600 back to East Timor will far exceed the cost of allowing them to remain in the Australian community with their children to finish their education (and return to Timor in their own good time if they so wish). After all, they received minimum assistance since their arrival here in the wake of the ‘Dili massacre’ ... most of the “cost” of their resettlement (in oz) has been born by the long standing Timorese community that has been here since the late 1970s and by sympathetic charities and refugee support groups and the individuals themselves. Further, to allow those individual Timorese who are here without family support to finish their education here will mean that Australia will have hundreds of potential “goodwill ambassadors” amongst those who eventually decide to return to their motherland - particularly if their Australian education allows them to move into positions of power and influence in the new independent govt of East Timor after may 20th 2002. To force them to return now to East Timor will be to disrupt their education and return them to a place where the education system will be foreign to them after 8-10 years away from it. Indeed the incumbent Timorese govt has a major problem of deciding the language of instruction inside East Timor. How will these children in Australia - who have now been schooled in English - fit into a system where there are now 3,000 Portuguese language teachers but only a handful of English teachers? What of those in the final year of TAFE studies when there is no equivalent courses on offer in East Timor?
2. Are the Timorese to become the latest pawns/scapegoats in the govt’s hard line policy over refugees since the Tampa crisis? Clearly the successful integration of these 1600 Timorese asylum seekers into the Australian community makes a mockery of Ruddock’s hard line “lock the Afghani kids up” position. Clearly his motivation has nothing to do with “compassion” for those more deserving that the Timorese. He now wants to kick the Timorese out with the “it’s safe to go home” argument so he can use this decision as a precedent for kicking the Afghanis out as well with the argument “the war’s over, it’s safe for them to go home too”, when only yesterday an American correspondent from the Boston Globe (Mclehr-Neil news hour report/rebroadcast in Oz on SBS television 27/12/01) stated that “many old and young afghans will perish....aid is only getting through to the major cities ... many of those in the villages will perish this winter”). Ruddock is also trying to smear the Timorese (who suffered so much) with the “queue jumper” label by arguing there are now others who deserve more “compassion”. This from a man who never uttered one word about the Dili massacre and who’s Prime Minister (Howard) is going to Jakarta in February with the primary objective of restoring military aid to the Indonesian generals so they can continue their genocidal practices in Aceh and West Papua.
3. We owe it to the East Timorese ... after arming the Indonesians for 25 years in a genocidal war and collaborating with the destruction of their country in 1999 by insisting on Indonesian military “security” for the August 30th referendum and saying “the UN will protect you” can we say that 2 years of providing peace keepers and a minimal aid budget is really clearing our debt to Timor? As stated above, Portugal has sent over 3,000 primary and secondary school teachers to East Timor. Ausaid and the various NGOs have only funded a few dozen English teachers from Australia? The Lusa organisation is providing Timor with a complete radio and television infrastructure. What about the ABC and radio Australia matching that? Reconstructing East Timor is our responsibility and the government has been negligent in reminding itself and the general public since 1999 of just how much more needs to be done before we can say we have absolved ourselves of that responsibility. Allowing the 1600 asylum seekers to remain in Australia - to return to Timor at a time of their own choosing and of their own volition - will be one more small step in Australia absolving their debt.