UN; S-G rejects Australian proposal on Afghan refugees
United Nations Press Release
September 5, 2001
Secretary-General, rejecting Australian proposal for East Timor processing of Afghan refugees, says UNHCR plan ‘remains viable’
The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:
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
There, UNHCR would provide medical assistance and screen the individuals to determine if they merit refugee status. Those that do would then go directly to countries that would accept them as refugees
- namely New Zealand, Nauru and Norway. A limited number with specific reasons, such as family ties, would be accepted by Australia.
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 ... 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
31 FAETTA: Response to MV Tampa Refugees Release added
"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
31 RT: E.Timor says ready to help rejected asylum seekers
News added Aug 31
“We are a small player. If we can be the solution to this problem of course we’ll make ourselves available, ... If we are approached by the Australian government, by UNHCR, to help certainly we will be looking at this possibility of receiving the refugees favourably.” Jose Ramos-Horta, de facto foreign minister, ETimor
"The asylum seekers have been stranded for days on a Norwegian cargo ship which had rescued them off isolated Christmas Island as they tried to sail to Australia in an unseaworthy boat from Indonesia. Canberra has refused to give them refuge as has Indonesia whose vast archipelago often acts as a staging post for a growing stream of asylum seekers making their way to Australia." Reuters