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East Timor Cool on Asylum Seeker Plan

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Download  Australia's new Prime Minister Julia Gillard has suggested sending asylum seekers from countries like Afghanistan and Sri Lanka to East Timor to be processed.

The topic was discussed when East Timor's President Jose Ramos-Horta met with the Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao in Dili this week.

Any decision rests with the Prime Minister, but the Australian leader Julia Gillard has yet to speak to Mr Gusmao.

There is also growing opposition to the proposal among East Timor's politicians in Dili.

Radio Australia’s Sara Everingham reports.


More MPs in East Timor are voicing opposition to Julia Gillard's proposal.

Arsenio Bano is the vice president of East Timor's main opposition party Fretilin.

“I don't believe that it is a good time. I think Timor should reject the proposal, simply because there is no condition in Timor to do that. Economic and social conditions; we are one of the poorest countries in Indonesia.”

If Australia was to give East Timor assistance in setting this up would it be possible to actually establish this centre in East Timor?

“I don't think that's a problem with assisting. I think the question is whether Timor wants to be a processing centre or other, other type of Pacific Solution. I don't think it is appropriate for Timor.”

Aderito Hugo da Costa is an MP and member of the Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao's party.

“Money is not the point, not the issue. The issue is how we have time to look at outside problems rather than look at our own people's problems that are still very, very serious problems.”

There's concern a processing centre for asylum seekers could even inflame social tensions in East Timor.

Arsenio Bano from the Fretilin opposition again.

“We have not established any social welfare like other countries such as Australia, even Indonesia. If we want to decide to accept any refugees in Timor we have to be able to offer a same level of services that we offer to our own people, so you can avoid discrimination, you can avoid other such as problems, racism and so on.”

Julia Gillard discussed her proposal with East Timor's president Jose Ramos-Horta but she hasn't spoken with the Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

Jose Belo the editor of the east Timorese newspaper Tempo Semanal says that was a mistake.

“They thought that the president is the one that is going to make the decision, it's wrong, it's actually thea executive right of the government to make the decision.”

Xanana Gusmao's likely to prove a tougher audience for Julia Gillard.

In recent months he's expressed discontent with Australia on a number of fronts and his attempts to have gas from the Timor Sea piped to East Timor to be processed onshore have been frustrated.

The Australian company Woodside has opted for a platform floating at sea.

Last Updated ( Monday, 19 July 2010 11:19 )  

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