Catholic News - Catholic Telecommunications, a devision of Catholic Resources





Justice agencies laud progress on World Refugee Day

In media statements for World Refugee Day (celebrated today), two Catholic agencies reflect that progress is being made in the fight for justice for refugees but much work remains to be done.

The Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre's World Refugee Day statement says: "There is reason for rejoicing. Uniya and its supporters congratulate Minister Ruddock's preparedness to use his intervention powers under section 417 of the Migration Act to allow those East Timorese asylum seekers who have failed the protection visa requirements to stay in Australia."

"We affirm those members of the public, many from the Catholic community, for their strong and tireless advocacy in this matter."

"There is, however, cause for concern, most notably the Minister's threat of forcible deportation of around one hundred Iranian asylum seekers back to their homeland. The Federal government has refused to provide any guarantees for the safety of those deported to Iran. This is despite the concerns raised last week by Justice Louis Joinet, the head of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Justice Joinet said that having recently visited Iran to inspect the human rights situation, he held deep concerns about what would happen were any Iranian detainees forcibly returned from Australia. Minister Ruddock has refused to involve UNHCR in this issue."

"Uniya recommends that once the representatives of the Iranian asylum seekers have exhausted all domestic avenues they should consider lodging a complaint, subject to admissibility requirements, to the United Nations' Committee Against Torture (CAT) in respect to cases coming under article 3 of the Torture Convention. We believe that it would be unconscionable for the Government to deport these people until international procedures have been exhausted."

The Catholic Commission for Justice Development and Peace (Melbourne) said World Refugee Day, June 20 2003, marked a point where recent changes in attitudes and policy meant that there was an improvement in treatment and understanding of refugees and people seeking asylum. The Commission pointed to recent announcements on alternative housing for women and children in detention, a sympathetic approach to the East Timorese Asylum Seekers and the ALPÕs new refugee policy as all being positive changes. However the Commission warned that the 8500 refugees on Temporary Protection Visas faced an uncertain future and required permanent protection.

Executive Officer Marc Purcell said, "There have been a number of shifts in policy that indicate that the Government and the Opposition are dealing with refugees and asylum seekers in a more humane and sensible manner without the hysteria of a few years ago. The Government's move to set up alternative housing arrangements for women and children in detention in Woomera, Port Augusta and Port Hedland is welcome. The next step the Government should take is to end the separation of families and allow fathers, currently in Baxter Detention Centre, to reside with their families".

UNIYA Media Release
CCJD&P Media Release

20 Jun 2003