Toowoomba Catholics urge family values in asylum seeker policy
Toowoomba Diocese's Social Justice Commission took part in a "detention centre prayer breakfast" this morning outside the Toowoomba Mayoral Prayer Breakfast, where Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson was the keynote speaker.
The Commission's executive officer Mark Copland said the event was an action intended to encourage politicians to heed Australia's "call to hospitality".
"We are simply standing with those men women and children held behind the razor wire this morning," he said. "We are not protesting the prayer breakfast."
A prior statement from the Commission anticipated Mr Anderson would speak about Christian family values. The organisers hoped that participants in the Mayor's Breakfast would recognise that refugees in detention centres are part of the human family.
The statement criticised the Federal Government's deals with Iran to return refugees. It said the Government regards Iran as part of the "axis of evil", yet it refuses to ensure the safety of returned asylum seekers once they are forcibly removed from Australia.
It also slammed the Government's recent order not to release images of "loving" asylum seeker children, parents and Australian navy personnel that would "humanise" asylum seekers.
Meanwhile Adelaide's Catholic welfare agency Centacare has pledged accommodation and support for the Bakhtiyari children, should they be released from detention. The offer follows a complaint from Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock that releasing the high profile refugee children into the community would cost "well over" $300,000 a year, or "more than three times the cost" of keeping them in detention.
Centacare Executive director Dale West said the federal government estimate was a "nonsense" and his organisation could take care of them for much less.
"It wouldn't cost anything like that if they were placed in the hands of an organisation like Centacare," Mr West said, stressing that such estimates are "outrageous" and overlook the wellbeing of the children.
On another front, the independent Catholic lobby group PolMin yesterday lodged a 2000 strong petition calling for a halt to the forced repatriation of asylum seekers.
The petition was addressed to members of the House of Representatives, calling on them to introduce legislation that would prevent the forced repatriation of asylum seekers.
"At present Australia's policy is to forcefully repatriate those asylum seekers without regard to their safety or protection," Mr James McGillicuddy, spokesperson from PolMin said today. "The policy works out side of the Migration Act 1958 and is by way of country specific Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs). MOUs allow Australia to forcefully return asylum seekers to their homeland."
Social Justice Commission, Diocese of Toowoomba/The Australian/PolMin
Diocese of Toowoomba | Social Justice Commission
Toowoomba City Council
Adelaide Centacare optimistic about fate of child detainees (29/7/03)
5 Aug 2003