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Bishops Conference tells Howard to think of people in Tampa crisis

The Australian Bishops Conference President, Archbishop Francis Carroll, has warned that the Howard Government's hard line against the refugees stranded on the Norwegian ship in the Indian Ocean will not deter other boat people because the Government has not considered the desperation of those involved.

"The end goal of the Government is obvious, to stop the illegal trade of people smuggling and the Bishops would support this concept but not by using theses current tactics," said Archbishop Carroll. "To think that the Government's current tactic in this situation will deter future asylum seekers from attempting to reach Australian shores clearly exhibits the Government's misunderstanding of the desperation these people feel."

The archbishop also pointed out that "Australia has ratified the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees which obliges us as signatories not to turn back those seeking asylum."

He added: "Last year, the Year of Great Jubilee in the Church, a Charter of Rights for Displaced Persons was issued from Rome. The first of those rights is 'that displaced people not be turned back at the borders of the country where they seek protection'".