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Social Justice Council says immigration detention can amount to torture

In a message for yesterday's International Day in Support of Survivors of Torture, the Acting Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, Bishop William Morris, has suggested elements of Australia's immigration detention regime could amount to torture.

He said the country's detention centres contain people who are desperate, and have come to Australia seeking asylum. These people, he continued, should not be labelled 'illegal' because they are exercising their right under international humanitarian law to seek asylum without necessarily having a visa.

Bishop Morris compared some procedures in the centres to torture.

"In some immigration detention centers observations and musters involve waking asylum seekers at night or shining torches on them while they are sleeping," he said. "At certain stages in their processing, asylum seekers in detention are not allowed to contact their families."

Bishop Morris said that human dignity is at the centre of Catholic thinking about human rights and social justice, and torture is a profound attack on human dignity.

"In torture the victim is treated as something less than human and the perpetrator becomes less human. Respect for human dignity and human rights calls us to act to stop torture in whatever way we can," he said.