APSN Banner

Timor supports Malaysia deal

Australian Associated Press - July 25, 2011

Larine Statham – East Timor President Jose Ramos Horta says he supports Australia's refugee swap deal with Malaysia.

Dr Ramos Horta on Monday said he was glad Australia had found a solution to its asylum seeker "dilemma" several months after it sought to build a detention centre in East Timor.

"I think Nauru is back on track. I hear Solomon Islands is interested and Papua New Guinea," he told reporters in Darwin.

"And so for us it's fine that the Timor option is more or less on hold. We haven't pursued any further discussions with the Australian side on the Timor option.

"And you know, in the end, our demands and our expectations would be such that I don't think we could bridge the difference between our approach and Australia's.

"If we were to do, at least in my view as a humanist and Timorese leader, it would be a very humane processing centre facility and not at all a detention centre."

He reiterated statements he made during negotiations, that any centre in East Timor would be temporary.

"If at one point we decide 'sorry, we are not going to continue', the facility would be closed down and all the infrastructure built by Australia would be handed over to us."

He said he did not know a lot about the deal between Malaysia and Australia, nor was he familiar with conditions in Malaysian detention centres.

The United Nations had originally been concerned the agreement could breach international refugee rights, but the UN is believed now to be supportive of the swap.

"I think Australia and Malaysia work hard to find this creative solution, which seems to make sense, but for us, we totally sympathise with Australia's dilemma," Dr Ramos Horta said.

"They are not coming to East Timor, they are not going to Indonesia. Australia and New Zealand are the attractive propositions for anyone fleeing poverty and violence in Afghanistan or Pakistan, Sri Lanka. If Australia has found a solution with Malaysia, we can only support it."

Dr Ramos Horta was in Darwin to speak at the Property Council of Australia 2011 Congress alongside former defence force chief General Peter Cosgrove and for the launch of East Timor's international airline, Timor Air. The new airline will make daily flights between Darwin and Dili.