BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor     home.........themes ....... search

BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor

Tampa refugees:

A collection of recent statements and news on the asylum seekers who were 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.

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Up-Dated: Feb 13, 2002

NEW = Added to BACK DOOR Website since last Monday's Emailout

Feb 12 Asia Times: Indonesia-Australia: Shaking hands with clenched fists  Analysis added Feb 13
"The increasing inflow of asylum seekers to Australia from Indonesian shores, and Canberra’s insistence last year that Jakarta take back the shipload of Middle Eastern and South Asian refugees aboard the Norwegian vessel Tampa, infuriated Indonesian leadership. Jakarta felt so insulted at the “megaphone diplomacy” of Australia that when John Howard late last year called Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri to help find a solution for the Tampa crisis, the president did not even bother to return his call. Now the relationship appears to be on the mend. During Howard’s visit last week, the two countries signed a counter-terrorism agreement that provides a framework for an intelligence-sharing cooperation between the law enforcing agencies of the two nations and possible joint operations between their military, intelligence, police, customs, and immigration officials." Purnendra Jain, professor, Center for Asian Studies, Adelaide University & John Bruni, adjunct lecturer, Politics Department, Adelaide University, Australia

Feb 11 StratFor: Isolated Indonesia Eyes Australia for Support  Analysis added Feb 13
"Indonesia and Australia signed an anti-terrorism cooperation agreement Feb.  7. Though both countries have had relatively serious diplomatic problems with each other in the past, this new agreement will guarantee Indonesia a powerful regional ally as it is increasingly shunned by its Southeast Asian neighbors. ... During a visit to Indonesia last week, Australian Prime Minister John Howard oversaw the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two countries on anti-terrorism cooperation. Both sides pledged greater intelligence sharing, training and visits between officials while Howard also promised to provide Jakarta with five small patrol boats to help reduce the number of asylum seekers—many of whom come from Indonesia—heading for Australia." Stratfor Geopolitics Analysis

Oct 30 Aus: Gusmao blasts Ruddock on Refugees  News added Oct 31
"Commenting on Canberra’s current handling of refugees boatloads, which have been diverted to far-flung Pacific territories, Gusmao said he personally had experience of Australian reluctance to take in refugees. He recalled that when violence engulfed East Timor after it voted for independence in August 1999, he met Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock to appeal for a few East Timorese students being harassed in Indonesia to be allowed entry to Darwin “as a bridge to East Timor”. ... “But Mr Ruddock said no,” " AFP

Oct 22 SMH: Tampa Affair: How the UN blocked ETimor solution  Article added Oct 25
"Frustrated by the increasingly embarrassing Tampa [asylum seekers] standoff, the Australian Government turned to its aid-supported neighbours for help. ... when East Timor was approached, the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, stepped in to block the plan. ... The trouble is, the Tampa operation has used up much of the goodwill Australia once enjoyed on refugee questions. ... But with the erection of a second camp on Nauru and negotiations to build yet more camps on Fiji, Palau and Kiribati, the question remains: where can these people go in the end except where they were always heading, Australia? All we can say for certain is that they won’t be back here [Australia] before the [Federal] election." Marian Wilkinson and David Marr

Sep 8 CM: Australian Labor MP on Tampa refugees and ETimor Article added Sep 10
"Horta had been telephoned early on the morning of Thursday, August 30 (the actual day of the vote) ... to see if East Timor could assist with taking asylum seekers from the Tampa. ... East Timor had been the beneficiary of so much humanitarian assistance in recent years, they [Horta, Gusmao and Alkatiri] felt obliged to offer assistance." Labor MP Kevin Rudd, all-party [Australian] delegation to ETimor's elections

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: Latest on Tampa refugees  Interviews added Sep 1
" ... 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

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

Aug 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

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Reports & position statements are especially welcomed.

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