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Opposition call for Tamil havens in Australia (The World Today)

May 22, 2009

Note – we are under no illusions about the opposition’s real concern for the Tamils. During the conflict – neither the Opposition or the Government showed any compassion to Australian Tamils despite repeated pleas of help to both parties.

ABC – Opposition call for Tamil havens in Australia (The World Today)

The Federal Opposition says the Government should offer temporary protection visas to Sri Lankan Tamils affected by the civil war in their country.

 

Since the war ended, aid groups have warned that hundreds of thousands of civilians are homeless and refugee camps are struggling to cope under the strain.

 

The Australian Government says it too is concerned but so far it is refusing to say whether there are any plans to offer Tamils asylum in Australia outside of the existing refugee program.

 

Opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone told The World Today Australia needs to consider responding as it did in the Balkans crisis and in East Timor by offering temporary protection to Tamils.

 

“When we were in government in May 1999 we responded to the Balkan war crisis and we brought out 4,000 Kosovars under what are called ‘safe haven visas’,” she said.

 

“There’s a lot of options for this Government … to think about and it really staggers me that they don’t seem to be talking about the options which are on the statutes in Australia.”

 

She said the Migration Act 1958 has provisions for the “safe haven visas”.

 

“These visas give you a period of time in Australia while your country settles,” she said.

 

“For example with the Kosovars, they came out in May 1999 and they returned on special flights in April 2000.”

 

She said the Tamils have integrated into Australian society as well as immigrants from other countries have.

 

“We have one of the most successful multicultural countries on earth,” she said.

 

“Not only have our Tamils been great Australians; we have our people from the Punjab, our people from Africa now.

 

“We are a place that has extraordinary success in offering a tolerant, safe country for new settlers.

 

“I’m quite staggered that this Government doesn’t seem to be entertaining any of the options that are available in Australian law and just seems to be talking about, ‘oh we need to work out why these people want to leave the country’.”

Security concerns

 

Ms Stone said any worries that members of the rebel Tamil Tigers may infiltrate Australia are unfounded because of the Department of Immigration’s procedures.

 

“That’s always the risk, when you talk about any migration program or refugee humanitarian program,” she said.

 

“That’s why our own Department of Immigration has to be very good at identifying people according to their security, health and of course identification factors.

 

“We didn’t do so well it would seem after the second World War where it appears that numbers of people who were in fact war criminals … a few [got] into Australia.

 

“It’s extraordinarily hard to be 100 per cent successful in your screening, but every country has to do that.”

A better Sri Lanka

 

She says assisting the Tamils now could help contribute to a better unified Sri Lanka when it rebuilds itself as a new, democratic country.

 

“After 25 or 27 years of the most terrible civil war, one can only hope that this Government is serious and has real convictions about a future united and multicultural country,” she said.

 

“That’s why it’s important that if this Government does offer a temporary safe haven it would be just that, a temporary safe haven so the Tamils could go back home and enjoy that united country, using their skills, their business acumen, their professional skills if they have them, to help rebuild that country.

 

“That’s very important.”

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