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SA churches offering legal aid to Woomera asylum seekers


South Australia's Christian churches have set up a legal outpost to give hundreds of asylum seekers at the Woomera Detention Centre access to legal advice.

The Southern Cross reports that the churches are financing the rental of a three-bedroom house, set-up costs and out-of-pocket expenses for lawyers for six months - at a cost of $42,500 - in a bid to help lawyers gain access to Woomera asylum seekers.

Up to 25 Adelaide lawyers are on a volunteer roster to visit the isolated centre in the hope that a regular legal presence will improve relationships between centre managers and lawyers.

Centacare director Dale West said volunteer lawyers had travelled more than five hours from Adelaide only to find their access delayed.

Adelaide lawyers had been sleeping on the floor of the local school and showering at local parish priest Fr Jim Monaghan's house while waiting for access, he said.

Mr West said that despite government and public opinion the asylum seekers still had legal and humanitarian rights.

"They have been denied these rights through the lack of access to all the available information which is rightfully theirs," he said. "They came here illegally but at the end of the day they don't give up their humanitarian and legal rights."

SOURCE
Southern Cross


10-Dec-01