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Immigration Minister takes on Catholic Social Justice Council

Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock has attacked the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC), accusing it of uninformed speculation and hearsay over comments made in an ACSJC article on immigration detention centres.

The Catholic Weekly reports that Mr Ruddock made the claims in a letter to the just-published May edition of the ACSJC's Justice Trends newsletter. The article the minister objects to appeared in the February edition of Justice Trends.

The article dealt with concerns over the treatment of asylum seekers, including involuntary sedation of asylum seekers, victimisation and general abuse of asylum seekers, as well as the manner in which accusations of child sexual abuse in the detention centres are handled.

Accusations of sexual abuse at the detention centre in the remote South Australian town of Woomera sparked an internal inquiry by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs last year.

A subsequent report, released in March, found instances where allegations of abuse were not dealt with according to legislative, departmental or even detention centre management instructions. The report made 16 recommendations for improvements - all accepted by Minister Ruddock.

ACSJC director, Sandie Cornish said she was both surprised and horrified at the minister's response to the article.

Ms Cornish repudiated the minister's statements, saying they were "profoundly offensive".

"Now we have to wonder how serious the minister is about reforms (resulting from the recommendations)," said Ms Cornish.

Catholic Weekly