Timorese reject asylum bid by Gillard

AS EAST Timorese church and military leaders joined local politicians in condemning Julia Gillard's proposal for an offshore processing centre in their country, human rights leader Father Frank Brennan described the plan as "unprincipled and unworkable".

Ms Gillard said yesterday she would pursue an offshore facility as "an absolute top priority" if Labor was returned on Saturday.

But Father Brennan, director of the Public Policy Institute at the Australian Catholic University, said asylum seekers would make a rush by sea to any such facility.

"There may be merit in the idea of a regional processing centre, but East Timor is the last place in the region you'd put it. I think the idea of East Timor is unprincipled and unworkable," Father Brennan said.

"What you have to do with a regional processing centre is avoid the honey-pot effect, which is attracting even more people to make journeys from far away."

The East Timorese church has called on its Government to respect the wishes of Parliament which in June passed a resolution condemning the plan - and cease negotiations with Australia.

"If the Parliament has rejected this proposal, and they are representatives of the people, we should respect this," Father Martinho Gusmao said yesterday.

Father Brennan said many poverty-stricken East Timorese wanted to live in Australia and would ask: "Why is it people in the regional processing centre can get to Australia but we can't?"

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said there would be no guarantee of prompt settlement given to asylum seekers on Nauru.

"If someone has been found to be a refugee, they can make resettlement application to countries around the world," he said.

The Opposition's policy is that people would be assessed on Nauru according to the UN's refugee guidelines

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