Perpetual Insecurity 4b - East Timorese Asylum Seekers


A Decade in Limbo: the case of East Timorese asylum seekers

[imagecaption] Elcho Island dancers supporting Timorese vigil at the Indonesian consulate in Darwin after the Santa Cruz massacre, 1991. Photographer: unknown. Read more. [/imagecaption]


‘We’ve been fighting this struggle and been in limbo for more than a decade’

Fivo Freitas, former East Timorese resistance fighter

Bridging visas can be granted for a period of months or years and potentially renewed indefinitely, leaving people in limbo for prolonged periods.

Following the Santa Cruz cemetery massacre in 1991, hundreds of people from East Timor sought asylum in Australia. The majority ended up in Melbourne living in the community on bridging visas. Some battled for more than a decade to be recognised as people to whom Australia owed protection. Ultimately the majority were granted permanent residency in 2005.  However, a smaller group of about 50 people continued to struggle to stay in the country for years longer. A study considering the wellbeing of East Timorese women asylum seekers residing in the Australian community found that insecurity of tenure and living with the fear of forced removal significantly affected and dangerously compromised their wellbeing (Rees, 2003).



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