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Church says asylum seekers victimised by newspaper distortion

Catholic Social Services Victoria has voiced its concern over what it considers unfair reporting of issues concerning asylum seekers, specifically a headline in the Melbourne Herald-Sun that implied that only seven out of 292 Afghans detained by Australia on Nauru are genuine refugees.

Executive director Fr Joe Caddy said: "The conclusion gained from the headlines and easily drawn by readers not prepared to dig deeper into the article is that the remaining 285 were not refugees. However that is not the case."

He says the fact, reported later in the article, is that the 285 denied refugee status at this stage have been invited to be re-interviewed to present new information about their claims in the light of changed circumstances in Afghanistan.

Fr Caddy said Afghanistan has become less stable in the wake of the apparent demise of the Taliban, which presided over relative stability when the asylum seekers boarded the MS Tampa in Australian waters last August.

"The 'children overboard' saga indicated just how vulnerable the Australian public is to misinformation concerning the plight of refugees," he said. "One wonders why the Federal Government and a media outlet would seem to be embarking on a joint project to manipulate the public perception ... and prey upon the fears of ordinary Australians."

Meanwhile Melbourne's Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace yesterday accused Australia of bulling Nauru and Papua New Guinea into violating the human rights of detainees by ignoring their own constitutions.

The constitutions of both countries prevented arbitrary detention by providing for the right to a lawyer and requiring detainees to be charged before a court, commission executive officer Marc Purcell said.

Boat people to be sent home (Herald-Sun 9/4/02)
Catholic Social Services Victoria

CSS/Canberra Times

10 Apr 2002