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Church bodies give details of refugee initiative

In a major humanitarian initiative to be launched on Migrant and Refugee Sunday this Sunday, Australian Catholics are being asked to help in a proposed partnership with the Federal Government that would see families and children in detention centres allowed into the community.

The Pledge initiative, organised by three peak Catholic bodies - the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes (ACLRI), Australian Catholic Migrant & Refugee Office (ACMRO) and the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) - is a response to the unease and distress expressed in Catholic parishes over the plight of asylum seekers whose claims for protection visas have been rejected by government, but who are nonetheless unable to return to their countries of origin.

"These are the people in our detention centres whose lives are 'on hold'," said ACSJC Acting National Executive Director, Sr Suzette Clark. "They have been refused refugee status but are unable to return home because conditions there are unsafe."

"Some of them, including children, have been held in detention centres for years - where they will continue to stay indefinitely unless there is a humanitarian breakthrough."

Sr Suzette said parishes were ready to help today's asylum seekers in the same spirit in which they had assisted Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s and 1980s, who came to Australia by boat or plane and found Catholic communities willing to help them find housing and employment.

"This Sunday, in Catholic parishes and in religious congregations and organisations, we invite people to pledge promises of assistance for these Asylum Seekers so that they can live in the community as other Asylum Seekers do, and become self-sufficient and participating members of Australian society." Sr Suzette said. She added that none of the asylum seekers in question had been found to pose any security risk.

"In return the government would be asked to provide essential services such as access to health care and education. With these services on the negotiating table we will call on our communities to honour their pledges."

ACMRO | Resources for Refugee and Migrant Sunday
National Council of Churches Refugee Sunday Kit


23 Aug 2002