Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (2 April) . . Page.. 1278 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
Australia at the height of that war have returned home, but the majority of those who remained have temporary visas that are due to expire in July of this year.
I have met many of these families, and my advice is that seven Kosovar families remain living in the ACT. Their temporary humanitarian concern visas expire in July 2003. As I was saying, while the majority of people who came to Australia in 1999 from Kosovo under the safe haven arrangements have returned home, 157 were allowed to remain in Australia until July 2003 to enable them to undergo continued medical treatment and psychological counselling.
Tragically, the physical and mental health of the Kosovar families that remain is deteriorating. A study undertaken in 2002 revealed a re-emergence of trauma-related symptoms as the level of concern about their future increased. That concern is mounting now as the time of their ultimately signalled forced removal from Australia approaches.
I have met a number of these families, who are gravely concerned that they will be forcibly deported some time within the next few months. These families have lived within the heart of the community for four years. Their children have attended our schools and have an outlook that is Australian and Western; they have become cemented as part and parcel of the Canberra community.
There are seven Kosovar families here now, and the arrangements put in place for them will perhaps be repeated for the East Timorese. Some of the Kosovar families have extended families. There is one situation in the ACT where two brothers from the same village came with their families to Australia together. One of the brothers has been granted permanent residency status; his brother, who has been waiting for two years to achieve the same status, has been denied it and is facing forcible removal or deportation in three months time.
One would wonder at the machinations and perambulations of our refugee infrastructure if we have the heart-rending situation where families who have lived here as part and parcel of this community and as law-abiding, productive members of the community are forcibly deported in the next three months.
I have written a couple of times now to the federal minister for immigration in relation to the plight of these families, to date with no positive response. I hope that the Commonwealth moves quickly and humanely to finalise the consideration of the fate of these seven Kosovar families who, if nothing happens over the next month or two, will be forcibly deported from our midst. It is a painful and horrible prospect that they face-and, I believe, we as a community face-that these families who have become part and parcel of this community will be forcibly removed from us.
It is similar to the issue Mrs Cross raises. When it gets to that ultimate position of forced deportation, it is the most traumatic and awful prospect that these families can face. That is precisely what awaits the East Timorese people if the attitude of the Commonwealth government and the federal immigration department does not change: forcible removal- utilising the full force of our authorities, police, customs and immigration authorities.
I acknowledge that the struggle to rebuild East Timor is a major challenge, not being taken lightly by the East Timorese. Our contribution should be to help them by example,