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Commission says refugee drowning highlights failed Govt policy

In expressing sorrow for the estimated 370 refugees who drowned after their ship sant en route to Australia, Melbourne's Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace has said the tragedy points to the inadequecy of Australia's asylum seeker processing procedures.

Executive Officer Marc Purcell said the Commission is concerned by Government statements that the refugees should have claimed asylum in other countries.

He said: "The fact that refugees are coming directly to Australia to claim asylum reflects the reality that the Government's small resettlement program is failing most refugees."

He said that that desperate refugees escaping the Taliban and Saddam Hussein's dictatorship are going to fall prey to people smugglers as long as Australia maintains minuscule numbers for resettlement.

"Australia's so-called 'queue' took only 21 Afghani people for resettlement in 2000. There are 2,019,000 Afghan refugees in Pakistan. We have no immigration officials hearing claims in Iraq."

Catholic Commission for Justice, Development & Peace, Melbourne