The Age
Ruddock offers Kosovar refugees special program

Thursday 13 April 2000

Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock has offered Kosovar refugees a 'special humanitarian program' which would give them the chance to return to Australia within a year - after first being sent home by this Sunday.

The Kosovars will have access to 4,000 places allocated for refugees from around the world.

Kosovars at Victoria's Bandiana Detention Centre were this afternoon considering the proposal, particularly aimed at more than 50 of those due to be returned to eastern Kosovo - which they consider to be hostile territory.

Kosovar advocate Erik Lloga told AAP the Kosovars would be 'sponsored' by Australia's Albanian community, which would ensure adequate work and housing was available.

Mr Lloga said he was pleased by the government's offer.

Meanwhile, Immigration Department spokesman Phil Mayne told reporters the Kosovars would definitely be transported home by Sunday.

Two had already opted for detention in a remote Australian facility.

Mr Mayne said the Kosovars sent home could begin the process of returning to Australia immediately their flights left the runway.

'We will give them the documents they need - they can fill it out on the plane,' he said.

Mr Mayne said all the Kosovars being sent home would have access to the program.

'There's no numbers,' he said. 'They all have access to this program.'

Shortly after Mr Mayne gave details of the government's latest offer to the Kosovars, they gathered outside buildings at the detention centre displaying large placards with words of thanks - and protest.

'Thank you Australian people', 'Help us', 'Thank you Premier of Tasmania Jim Baikon (sic)' the signs said.

The Kosovars waved their arms and Australian and Albanian flags for about 20 minutes amid steady rain.

Original article