The Age
Victoria a haven for refugees: Bracks

By TOBY HEMMING, PADRAIC MURPHY

Sunday 16 April 2000


Victorian Premier Steve Bracks said yesterday his government would work with the Federal Government to ensure Victoria remained a haven for any Kosovo refugees whose safety would be jeopardised if they returned to their homeland.

Mr Bracks said the law should be upheld, "but you've got to uphold it with sensitivity and compassion".

"If their safety is in jeopardy by moving them forcibly from this country, then we should not do it," he said. "There should be no bullying, no forced removal, there should be a compassionate understanding of their plight and the danger that they may be under in returning to their homeland."

Mr Bracks said he had not discussed the Kosovar refugees with Prime Minister John Howard or Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock.

Meanwhile, up to 20 former Kosovo refugees will today be taken from the Bandiana army barracks and transported to detention facilities in South Australia and Western Australia. The refugees, who have refused to return voluntarily to Kosovo, will join nine compatriots who yesterday were removed from the northern Victorian facility.

Although Immigration Department officials refused to reveal where the former refugees were to be taken, it is believed they were flown to either the Woomera detention centre in South Australia or to Port Hedland in Western Australia.

The rebel former refugees, who have chosen detention in Australia over return to Kosovo, will be repatriated after a two-week stay at the remote facilities.

Meanwhile, the 120 former refugees who remained at the Bandiana centre will be bussed to Sydney today. According to Immigration Department spokesman Roger Wheatley, they will depart for Kosovo late this evening.

The Bandiana detention centre, formerly the Bandiana safe haven, will be refurbished to house the Bulgarian weightlifting team, who will arrive in Australia for the Sydney Olympics.



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