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Catholic bodies welcome changes to immigration detention

A joint statement yesterday from two Australian Bishops Conference organisations described moves by both of the major political parties towards a more humane treatment of asylum seekers as "an important first step".

The statement from the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) and the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (ACMRO) follows a statement from the Bishops Conference itself last Friday before the changes were announced.

ACMRO Chairman Bishop Patrick Dougherty said yesterday: "These policy proposals show that the community is now ready to move beyond its current approach to processing arrivals to Australia."

ACSJC Chairman Bishop William Morris noted that the Australian Labor Party policy announced this week includes variations on ideas contained in The Humanitarian Program for People Seeking Protection in Australia, an initiative of the ACSJC and the NSW Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes in August.

"In particular, the limit of detention to 90 days is welcomed, as is the intention to end the indefinite continuity of temporary protection visas," he said.

But he continued: "It is disappointing to note that the Labor policy proposes continuing the processing of boat people offshore, at the new high-security centre on Christmas Island, and does not provide access to the legal system."

The Bishops concluded, "We see both Labor's new policy and the proposed changes to the Government's policy as providing opportunity for improvement to the current practices, while acknowledging the need for further discussion and improvement."

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, in its March 2002 Statement on Refugees and Asylum Seekers, expressed concern about preservation of family unity. ACSJC and ACMRO express the same concern.

Australian Catholic Social Justice Council

Australian Catholic Migration and Refugees Office
Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
Catholics welcome long-awaited Labor immigration policy (4/12/02)
Protecting Australia And Protecting The Australian Way (ALP media statement 3/12/02)
New church statement coincides with Govt backdown on detention (2/12/02)
Government urged to reconsider offer
Woomera Detention kids attend first day at Catholic school (22/11/02)
Bishop to push Govt on asylum seekers in Catholic schools (19/11/02)
Ruddock rejects new Church call for asylum seeker compassion (18/9/02)
Australian Bishops speak out on Refugees and Asylum Seekers (26/3/02) | statement (PDF)


The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council and the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office have relaunched a major humanitarian initiative that was first announced on Refugee and Migrant Sunday this year.

Australia's Catholics were asked to pledge practical support for the families and individuals currently residing in detention centres, who have not qualified for Australian protection visas, have not been found to be security risks, but cannot be returned to a country of origin because conditions there are unsafe.

A total of over $100,000 was pledged. A letter was forwarded to Minister Philip Ruddock, informing him of the amount promised and inviting the Federal Government to work in partnership with the Catholic Church to provide opportunity for these families and individuals. To date, there has been no reply.

"We have decided to relaunch this Pledge during Advent," explains a joint ACMRO-ACSJC statment, "Inviting people to make a promise of financial assistance for these Asylum Seekers who are indefinitely detained, so that they can live in the community as other Asylum Seekers do, and become self-sufficient and participating members of Australian society."

The two bodies are providing administrative facilities to mount and present the pledge to the Federal Government. The Pledge Form is available for download.

You will be asked to honour your pledge only when the Government provides these essential services. When we hear from Mr Ruddock, those who have made pledges will be contacted and informed of the next step.


Pledge Form

6 Dec 2002