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Bishops welcome release of detention centre children

Port Pirie Bishop Eugene Hurley, whose South Australian diocese includes the Baxter Detention Centre, described a court decision to release five children until their parents' asylum claims are processed, as a win for human dignity.

"This decision confirms the principle that the welfare of children should always be paramount," Bishop Hurley said.

"Children shouldn't be in detention and neither should their parents. Families should be held in an alternative detention model in the community while claims are being processed."

Priests delivering pastoral care to those in detention had been made aware of many children experiencing symptoms of anxiety, including bedwetting, nightmares, aggression and regression in studies.

Chairman of the Bishops' Committee for Migrants and Refugees, Bishop Joseph Grech also welcomed yesterday's court decision.

"This is a significant decision, which makes it clear that children should not be locked up in immigration detention centres," he said.

"Detention is very destructive on families. The bottom line is that these children should be housed in safe and secure accommodation, preferably with their parents."

The five children were taken into the care of the Catholic welfare agency Centacare, which provided them with safe accommodation and professional services.

"Respect for their religious faith will be an important part of that care," Bishop Grech said.


Meanwhile a report released by a consortium of 30 Victorian welfare agencies including the Catholic Commission for Justice Development and Peace (CCJDP) urges the Federal Government to consider alternative models of detention that could save money and improve the mental health of detained asylum seekers.

Under the scheme, the current 'one size fits all' model of detention would be abandoned in favour of provision of different types of detention depending upon security assessments and the vulnerability of individual asylum seekers. This will be achieved through different housing options.

CCJDP executive officer Marc Purcell said the financial and human costs of the current system are too high.

"Our model is just plain good sense. It is simply unnecessary to keep low risk asylum seekers such as children and families behind razor wire," he said. "Moving them to healthier and cheaper environments such as community housing with the support of case workers is a sensible change. It's better for the taxpayer, better for the asylum seekers and has no impact on the government's border control policies."


The independent Catholic lobbyist PolMin has called for an end to the practice of repatriating asylum seekers through country specific Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs).

Reports indicate that the Federal Government is preparing to send Iranian detainees home despite suicide attempts by fellow inmates fearing they will be lashed or fined on their return. The repatriation comes as aid agencies investigate reports that a Hazara Afghani refugee sent back from Nauru was killed a few days ago by the Taliban in Hazarajat.

PolMin spokesperson James McGillicuddy said: "Forced repatriation of any asylum seeker without the guarantee of safety and protection upon their return to their homeland is against Catholic social teaching."


On the second anniversary of the Tampa Incident, the Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre joined a number of agencies urging the Federal Government to reunite nine women and their 14 children in detention in Nauru, with their husbands and fathers in Australia on temporary protection visas.

Uniya signed a letter to the Prime Minister stressing that family unity is recognised as a principle in international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law.

Other signatories include the Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace (Melbourne), the Melbourne Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, the Mercy Foundation, Mercy Refugee Service, and the Missionary Sisters of Service.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Catholic Commission for Justice Development and Peace
Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre

Improving Outcomes and Reducing Costs for Asylum Seekers (text of Report)
Ruddock to challenge Family Court detention ruling (ABC)
Court orders children's release from detention centre (ABC Radio The World Today)
Children released, Ruddock rebuffed (The Age)
Court liberates children from detention (Herald-Sun)
Court frees child detainees (Sunday Mail)
Court orders children's release (The Age)
Children granted freedom from detention (The West Australian)
Court orders detainee kids release (The Australian)
Court releases children from detention (The Age)
Australian court orders asylum seekers children released (ABC)
Court orders children's release from detention (ABC)

26 Aug 2003