East Timor centre will take time: Bowen

September 14, 2010

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Setting up a regional refugee processing centre at East Timor will take time, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says.

Australia's existing immigration detention centres, including the Christmas Island facility, are reportedly beyond capacity.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised before the election that Australia would seek to have a regional centre built at East Timor to house the influx of asylum seekers.

But when pressed on the issue, Mr Bowen declined to commit to a specific deadline.

"I'm happy to say this will be one of my key and early priorities. However, I'm not in a position to put a timeframe on it," he told ABC Television on Tuesday.

Asked about the political ramifications of the asylum seeker issue, Mr Bowen said voters would understand the importance of pursuing discussions with Australia's regional neighbours.

"I understand the importance of this issue in people's minds," he said.

"I understand that people want to see progress on this issue and I think people also understand that whenever you enter into a set of discussions which are international in their focus, which are complex, then that will take some time."

source: The Sydney Morning Herald

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