Church groups call for immigration detention reform
The Flood Report into the country's immigration detention regime has given Catholic organisations hope that may bring Australia's asylum seeker protection practices into line with internation human rights law.
The Flood Report identified a range of problems and made 16 recommendations for action by the Federal Government. It recommends the release from detention of asylum seekers who do not pose a threat to national security or public order.
The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (ACMRO) and the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) have welcomed the report and called upon the Government to implement the Guidelines it has produced.
"The ACMRO and ACSJC believe that once identity and intent have been established, asylum seekers should only be detained if it can be established that the individuals concerned pose a threat to national security or public order," said Bishop Peter Stasiuk, Secretary of the Bishops' Committee for Migrants and Refugees.
He said: "The Immigration Detention Centre Guidelines produced by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission would ensure that Australia's immigration detention practice conformed to international law protecting human rights and defining the status of refugees."
Bishop William Brennan, Chairman of the ACSJC, added: "The ACSJC and ACMRO have consistently held that asylum seekers should not be treated punitively in order to 'send a message' to 'people smugglers'. Human beings are an end in themselves. Asylum seekers are human beings and their human rights should be respected at all stages of the processing of their claims to refugee status."
Last Tuesday, the Report of Inquiry into Immigration Detention Procedures, or Flood Report, was tabled in Federal Parliament by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. This inquiry was initiated by the Minister following expressions of concern by Church and community groups regarding conditions in immigration detention centers in late 2000. The report's findings confirmed community fears for the safety and well being of the staff and refugees at the Woomera Detention Centre.