Jesuit sets out vision for 'good asylum system'
The former international director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) says 'good' asylum must protect foreigners 'at risk' while preserving the integrity of the state welcoming them.
Fr Mark Raper, recently returned to Australia following 20 years overseas with JRS, is presenting his views together with Jesuit lawyer Fr Frank Brennan at a series of public forums in five capital cities beginning tonight in Melbourne.
"The asylum system holds in balance the contribution of a state to international cooperation and on the other hand its claim to sovereignty over its own territory," he said. "Border control has to be reconciled with human rights protection."
Fr Raper said that he was shocked to return home after 20 years of refugee work to discover that refugees are "behind wire in his own country". He described his experience of finding the land of his birth in a state of "national schizophrenia".
He challenged the determination that Australia "will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come". This, he said, is effectively "throwing overboard" the rights and needs of asylum seekers.
Fr Brennan, who is also speaking at the seminars, has just returned from an 18 month posting as Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in East Timor.
They will speak, alongside a panel of experts, at Xavier College, Melbourne, tonight, and St Aloysius' College, Sydney, tomorrow night. They will then travel to Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane next week. Details are posted on the website of the Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre, of which Fr Raper is now Director.
"Australia's Refugee Policy - Facts, Needs, Limits" - Jesuit Lenten Seminars 2002
Asylum Seekers in Australia Fact sheet prepared for Jesuit Lenten Seminars 2002
13 Mar 2002