Social Justice    PUNISHING BOAT PEOPLE CONCERNS CHURCH BODIES
Two organisations within the Australian Catholic Church have called for a fair go for so called illegal boat people, saying that government authorities should penalise 'people smugglers', and not their victims.
   The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council and the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office yesterday released a joint paper that calls for an expanded humanitarian program to provide more places within Australia's immigration program for those who are forced to flee desperate situations.
   It says: "The ACSJC and ACMRO affirm that 'people smuggling' is a serious international issue involving immense suffering and exploitation and welcomes tough new penalties for 'people smugglers' including large fines and the destruction of boats."
   Last year the number of people arriving in Australia without authority seeking asylum rose significantly. In response to this development the Federal Government has introduced tough new measures to deter 'people smuggling'.
   The paper points out that until recently, the automatic granting of protection visas provided these people with settlement services, health, medical and social security benefits, and entitlement to family reunion. However the new three year temporary visa will limit entitlements to Medicare and special benefits only.
   It says: "The three-year temporary visa holders are unable to access English language training, and have limited access to government settlement services. The punitive nature of these measures is clear, with tough restrictions preventing family reunion, including spouse and children, and with no automatic right of return if they should leave Australia."
   - ACSJC
    6/3/00

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