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February 2, 2011

OPEN LETTER CALLS FOR SCRAPPING THE EAST TIMOR REGIONAL PROCESSING CENTRE

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Media release, February 2 2011

Refugee groups have called on the Gillard Labor government to scrap its proposal to build a Regional Processing Centre in East Timor.

“The regional processing centre proposal was always about Australia avoiding its obligations to asylum seekers under the Refugee Convention. Now the leaked ‘Regional Assessment Centre’ document has revealed more detail, it is even clearer that the Gillard government is trying to deny asylum seekers’ their rights and dump them onto East Timor,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The arrogance of the document is astonishing and is certain to result in even more opposition in East Timor and Australia. There is no commitment from Australia to guarantee resettlement of successful refugees. The document even proposes using East Timor’s reputation to play a leading role in diplomatic efforts to attract new re-settlement opportunities.

“It is also obvious that there is no commitment from the UNHCR to support or run the centre and like Nauru, Australia would provide refugee assessment officers if the UNHCR was unwilling to be involved. Curiously there is no mention of the mental health needs of asylum seekers despite the mental health crisis that exists in Australia’s detention centres.”

The Refugee Action Coalition has been working with East Timorese NGOs to build opposition to the regional processing centre in both East Timor and Australia.

An “Open Letter President Jose Ramos Horta and the people of East Timor” (see below) has been circulating for a few weeks and has been released on RAC’s web site http://www.refugeeaction.org.au.

Some notable signatures include Professor Noam Chomsky, Sisters Josephine Mitchell and Susan Connelly, Mary MacKillop East Timor Mission, Tim Anderson, Senior Lecturer, Political Economy, Sydney Uni, Antony Loewenstein, journalist and author, Balmain for Refugees, Bridge for Asylum seekers foundation, Coalition for the protection of Asylum seekers, and Stephen Langford, Secretary Australia East Timor Association.

“We are sure that the growing opposition to the East Timor regional processing processing centre will mean that the regional processing centre will never be built. It is time for the Gillard government to stop running its Howard-lite anti-refugee agenda. It should end mandatory detention and face up to its political responsibilities to provide protection for asylum seekers,” said Rintoul.

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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