SEFOPE: Timorese seasonal workers on protection visa put their life in risk

SEFOPE: Timorese seasonal workers on protection visa put their life in risk

Timorese workers who will be departing to Australia. Tatoli’s image//Francisco Sony

DILI, 16 february 2022 (TATOLI) – The Secretary of State for Vocational Training and Employment (SEFOPE) urged Timorese seasonal workers in Australia to not look for protection visas when working in Australia.

National Direction of exterior employed, Filomeno Soares. Tatoli’s image//Egas Cristóvão

He said those workers who are currently on the temporary protection visa are not entitled to any health insurance and workers’ compensation insurance: “So, if they get sick or experience any difficulties, then they need to pay their medical bill themselves. It would make their life even more difficult.”

“For those who are currently on protection visas would have no chance to come to Timor-Leste before the matter was resolved by both Australia and Timor-Leste,” Soares told TATOLI at SEFOPE’s Training Center, in Dili, on wednesday.

Soares called on Timorese workers to not breach any rules and keep working under their original contract which is Seasonal Worker Program (SWP).

Currently, more than 300 Timorese workers are still working in Australia on the protection visa.

The National Director of Foreign Employment (DNEE) of SEFOPE, Filomeno Soares informed that many of the 300 workers left the Seasonal Worker Program and applied for Temporary Protection Visas to continue working in Australia due to the impacts of the COVID-19.

He said it is important to solve the problem in order to regain the trust of the Australian companies to continue taking more Timorese workers in the future.

“The Government of Timor-Leste had coordinated with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to solve this matter,” Soares said.

Both governments had signed an agreement on Pacific Australia Labor Mobility (PALM), and in the coming few months, the Australia Labor Scheme (PLS) and Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) would be integrated as one program: “Hopefully, this matter would be resolved under the PALM scheme.”

Last week, in Canberra, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MNEK) Adaljiza Magno, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Marise Payne, signed the first bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme.

The PALM scheme brings together the Pacific Labor Scheme and Seasonal Workers Program under a single program that helps build capacity to address workforce shortages in Australia, particularly in agriculture and across regional areas, and strengthens worker protections, said DFAT.

“The Morrison Government recognizes the outstanding contribution that Timor-Leste workers have made to our economy throughout the pandemic, keeping food on shelves and contributing to the cultural and economic vibrancy of regional and rural communities. These programs benefit both countries; directly contributing to Timor-Leste’s economic recovery and development,” Minister Payne said in a statement last week.

Since the implementation of the Seasonal Worker Program in 2011, the Government of Timor-Leste has sent more than 5000 young Timorese to Australia: “So far, these workers have contributed more than US$14 million to Timor-Leste.”

The Secretary of State for Vocational Training and Employment (SEFOPE) has planned to send more than 2800 workers to Australia this year.

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Journalist: Filomeno Martins

Editor: Rafy Belo


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