Bishops urge government to bring offshore detainees to Australia

WelCom November 2016: International News Australia’s Catholic Bishops released a statement on 13 October backing calls for asylum seekers detained on Nauru and Manus Island to have their claims assessed instead…

WelCom November 2016:

International News

Australia’s Catholic Bishops released a statement on 13 October backing calls for asylum seekers detained on Nauru and Manus Island to have their claims assessed instead in Australia.

President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Archbishop Denis Hart said all Catholics have a moral obligation to welcome vulnerable people forced from their own countries by war, persecution or poverty.

‘We deplore the detention of our brothers and sisters on Nauru and Manus Island. While recognising the effort of the Government to find a solution, we say enough is enough. We call on the Government to bring offshore detainees to Australia while awaiting further decisions on their future.

‘We pledge the help of our Catholic communities and institutions to welcome and support these refugees when they arrive, including Catholic health, education and social services.’

The Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA) has offered to lead a co-ordinated approach of Catholic community organisations to provide support to men, women and children seeking asylum if the Australian Government shows leadership.

CAPSA Chair and Jesuit Social Services CEO, Julie Edwards, said, ‘CAPSA believes offshore detention centres in Manus Island and Nauru are cruel and inhumane. We join the calls of millions of Australians that these centres should be immediately closed down and the men, women and children be brought to Australia where their claims for asylum must be processed in a timely manner.’

Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) has joined its voice to many others in appealing to the Australian Government for compassion and decency in its treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. We have heard repeatedly of the harm done to these, our sisters and brothers. The Australian Human Rights Commission, nurses, psychologists, teachers, religious leaders – all courageous people – continue to speak about their first-hand experience of the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus Island. CRA, which represents over 130 Religious Institutes in Australia, calls for compassion and decency.

Manus Island, Nauru refugees to be banned from entering Australia, Malcolm Turnbull says

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on 30 October that the Federal Government will soon move to ban refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru from ever coming to Australia. The proposed legislation to ban boat people from entering Australia, expected to be introduced into Parliament in November, would cover those who tried to reach Australia by boat from mid-July 2013, and would block them from obtaining any visa. Making the law retrospective means it can be used on the nearly 1,300 people who are on Manus Island and Nauru. Church leaders and human rights groups have strongly condemned the proposed new law.

Father Claude Mostowik, president of Pax Christi Australia, a branch of the International Christian Peace Movement Pax Christi International, has condemned as illegal and unprincipled, government plans to introduce legislation that would prevent people arriving by boat without a visa from ever entering Australia.

‘To punish people who have committed no crime, who seek safety from conflict situations to which this country has contributed beggars belief’, said Fr Mostowik. ‘All the more so as hundreds of children who have had no voice in coming to Australia are part of this collective punishment.

‘Their arrival is fully in accord with the Refugee Convention and International Law. It is utter hypocrisy to bypass these international obligations then publicly announce that Australia is complying with them,’ he said.

‘For those asylum seekers who have already come, the nasty obsession to make their lives hell in detention centres is unacceptable to us and to all people of good will. It reveals a terrible failure of leadership. That this policy might have bipartisan support does not make it right. The “violence of silence” on the part of Labor is utterly shocking.

‘The “clear message” from the prime minister and his immigration minister is one of hard-heartedness, closed-mindedness and cruelty. Bullying the weak and the voiceless hardly constitutes leadership. If Prime Minister Turnbull is to show true leadership, the only way is through compassion and humanity.

‘Pax Christi Australia calls on the government to work with regional countries and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to process asylum seekers in transit centres, and processed refugees should be brought to Australia. The government should also work together with the churches in Australia, other agencies and other faith groups. They have repeatedly offered to assist in resettlement of asylum seekers in the community – as the recent statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference clearly shows.

The proposed legislation must be opposed as illegal, immoral and unAustralian.’

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