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Congregational leaders critical of mandatory detention policy

The Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes (ACLRI) has claimed Australia's mandatory detention policy for asylum seekers amounts to vilification and imprisonment.

Yesterday was Refugee Sunday in all dioceses of the Australian Catholic Church, except the Archdiocese of Melbourne. It was also observed as national day of prayer for refugees by the 15 member churches of the National Council of Churches in Australia.

Representing more than 200 Catholic and several Anglican religious orders, the Conference maintains the harsh treatment of asylum seekers to deter others and people smugglers, is morally wrong.

Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock rejected the criticism.

"I think the the only vilification I see is of me," he said. "People suggesting that I am trying to, in some way, incite people against bona fide asylum seekers is just wrong. Australia accepts its international obligations."

Meanwhile, in a homily preached in Adelaide yesterday, Coadjutor Archbishop Philip Wilson said that people who come to Australia are making hard choices.

"People who leave their homes and seek a new life and freedom as refugees are usually being coerced from their homelands," he said. "We should not presume that everybody who comes here as a refugee is somehow trying to rort the system. Every person who comes to the country in this way should be treated in a manner that recognises their human dignity."

Australian Catholic Leaders of Religious Institutes