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New church statement coincides with Govt backdown on detention

As Australia's Catholic Bishops were once again expressing their concern, the Federal Government appeared set to drop the controversial detention of women, children and unaccompanied minors, a significant reversal of its asylum seeker policy.

"We believe that keeping children locked in a high security environment, cut off from contact with the world around them, has a destructive effect on their well-being and development and is a violation of their human dignity," the Bishops said in their statement released on Friday.

According to press reports this morning, women and children will live in supervised accommodation outside the centres, while fathers will be held in detention to deter them from absconding. Children will be free to attend local schools.

Mr Ruddock is also expected to outline new procedures for unaccompanied children, which do not involve them being held in detention.

The bishops, whose statement was released before news of the Government backdown, acknowledged the initiatives of the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs towards enrolling children from detention centres in local schools.

"While we commend this concession by the Department, we reaffirm the need for these children to be released from detention," they said. "However, we express concern that several detainees have suffered a deterioration in their mental and physical health as a result of being detained for long periods."

The bishops pointed out that local Catholic communities throughout Australia stand ready to provide practical and financial support to these people in need.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference/The Age

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)

2 Dec 2002