Ruddock rejects new Church call for asylum seeker compassion
Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock has dismissed as costly and irrelevant yesterday's call by Catholic religious orders for reform of asylum seeker detention practices.
A working paper launched by the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes (ACLRI) yesterday at the National Press Club included recommendations for the creation of an independent commissioner for refugees, open entry to Australia for asylum seekers and low-security reception centres for asylum seekers. The ACLRI also called for Australia to live up to its obligations under the 1951 United Nations convention on refugees and broaden its humanitarian immigration program.
It said asylum seekers should be released into the community within 60 days of arrival, unless they posed a health or security risk.
"The current system fails to treat them with equality or compassion, and causes unnecessary hardship," the paper said.
But Mr Ruddock responded by saying the call to release asylum seekers into the community would be costly and was irrelevant because most people in detention were being prepared for removal from Australia.
But the conference's president, Sr Bernadette Keating, said the proposals were compassionate, workable and affordable.
"We believe policies which detain people, including young children, for long periods behind razor wire in remote detention centres, policies that deny the reunion of families and keep people living in anxiety and uncertainty are not the policies of a generous and compassionate country," she said.
"Asylum Seekers - One Family divided, Many kept Apart" (ACLRI media release)
"Asylum Seekers - A Better Way, A Better Policy"
Catholic Working Paper on Refugee Program
Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes
18 Sep 2002