01 December 2012

Burmese refugees freed by police

ETLJB 01 december 2012 - The East Timor Police have released four Burmese nationals who were arrested by marine police officers in the Timor Sea in August of this year.

The four Burmese were heading to Australia to seek political asylum after fleeing ethnic and religious violence in Burma.

According to an English translation of a Tetum-language report in the Timor Post on 30 November 2012, the Head of the Immigration Police Service, Jose da Costa, said that the law did not permit the police to deport the Burmese asylum seekers but have freed them so that they can decide whether to leave for Australia or some other country.

“We are not allowed to deport these people, but we only free them to leave the country,” Mr da Cost is reported to have said.

Diario Nacional reported on 3 August last that the Burmese nationals has been arrested and detained along with four Indonesians on an illegal ship near Atabae.

Earlier in the year, in March 2012, Radio Timor Leste reported that another 26 Burmese asylum seekers had been found by local communities on the southern coast of the District of Vikeke after the boat on which they were fleeing experienced some technical problems at sea. Those 26 Burmese were presented by the Vikeke district police to the Public Prosecutor for processing. It was believed that they were also heading for Australia to seek asylum.

Author: Warren L. Wright Sources: Timor Post, Diario Nacional, Radio Timor Leste.

Related report
SIC hands Burmese people to Immigration police 

Note:  Article 10 (Solidarity) of the Constitution of East Timor provides that:
1. The Democratic Republic of East Timor shall extend its solidarity to the struggle of all peoples for national liberation.

2. The Democratic Republic of East Timor shall grant political asylum, in accordance with the law, to foreigners persecuted as a result of their struggle for national and social liberation, defence of human rights, democracy and peace.

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