The Age
Kosovars evicted, Somalis can stay

DAVID REARDON

Thursday 24 August 2000


Three Somali men facing deportation from Australia have been granted a temporary reprieve after church and human rights groups said they faced torture and possibly death if they returned home.

But 12 Kosovar refugees, including a teenager who spent three months on the run in Tasmania, were put on a plane out of Australia yesterday after their pleas to stay were rejected.

Brought to Australia last year at the height of hostilities in the Balkans, the Kosovars had been held at the Port Hedland detention centre in Western Australia after refusing to return home voluntarily when their temporary visas ran out.

They left Port Hedland on a charter plane on Tuesday and flew out of Perth yesterday.

The news was better for the Somalis after Amnesty International and the Uniting Church stepped up pressure for the government to grant a temporary stay of proceedings.

Amanda Boleter from Amnesty said the three men, who arrived in 1997 and have spent the past three years at Port Hedland, faced a terrible plight upon their return to war-torn Somalia.

She said the men, given the names Hussein, Yonis and Abdullah to protect their identities, were suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome, with numbness in their limbs, hair and weight loss and sleepless nights.

Uniting Church national president James Haire said he could not understand why the government would deport the Somalis, given a civil war was raging between rival clans in their homeland. "They are facing death as soon as they arrive at the airport," he said.

The Immigration Department would not comment on the specific case yesterday, saying only that it was not planning to deport the three men in the near future.

Meanwhile, Tasmanian Greens senator Bob Brown's spokesman Steven Chaffer spoke to Kosovar teenager Akif Lutfiu just before his deportation yesterday and said he was concerned for his future.

"Akif was very low and very anxious and frightened about going back to nothing because he has nothing to go back to - no family to support him, no job, no money, nothing," Mr Chaffer said.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said all the Kosovo refugees had had their cases examined. Those deported did not meet the criteria to stay, and there were no compelling reasons preventing their travel, he told ABC radio.



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