The Age
Kosovar family agrees to return

Friday 14 April 2000


A Kosovar family of four, which has been held in a Hobart motel for four days, today reluctantly agreed to go back to its homeland.
The family will leave probably on Sunday, armed with an application for a humanitarian visa signed by Tasmanian Premier Jim Bacon - but no guarantee that it'll be allowed to return to Australia.
Vesel and Nexhmije Sopjani and their sons Armend, 17, and Albert, 15, have become local celebrities since they were arrested at their suburban home on Monday morning, and Mr Bacon started negotiating with Immigration Minister Phil Ruddock for them to be allowed to stay.
The two boys had stayed by their ninth floor motel window as supporters and small groups of teenage schoolgirls kept watch below. Passersby waved their support.
The boys regularly threw notes to the girls. When one stuck on an awning, a motel worker leaned out with a broom and flipped it down. The note, adorned with a large heart, told how they wanted to stay.
Lunchtime rallies and evening candlelight vigils were held as the Sopjanis and lawyer Eugene Alexander held constant talks with Immigration officials in the motel and Mr Bacon dealt with Mr Ruddock's office.
The result was far less than they had hoped, with earlier expectations that the Sopjanis could receive state government sponsorship collapsing when Mr Ruddock would not waive some skills criteria.
Mr Alexander said the family was exhausted and stressed, and realised they had no real option. If they had refused to go, eventually they would have been deported and then had no chance of returning.
'They signed on the basis that Mr Ruddock held out hope and they trust him,' Mr Alexander said.
The lawyer said that while there were no guarantees, Mr Bacon's formal support should help.
While Mr Ruddock had also promised to speed their application by having it processed in Athens rather than Belgrade, it would still take months.
The only Kosovar unaccounted for in Tasmania is Akif Lutfiu, 19, who went into hiding on the weekend.
While Mr Bacon is prepared to support his return, and friends are understood to have advised him to give himself up, he's still in hiding.
He has said he would rather die than go back to Kosovo.


Original article