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Last-minute cancellation of Jesuit's visa to Nauru raises concerns

Lawyer and human rights advocate Fr Frank Brennan had his visa cancelled on Tuesday, 24 hours before he was due to depart for Nauru to gain understanding of the situation of the asylum seekers Australia diverted there for processing.

Fr Brennan's visa had been issued the previous day. It was cancelled by Nauru's Acting Chief Secretary for the stated reason that his visit was "not conductive of parish or pastoral work with the Catholic mission".

The parish priest had guaranteed authorities that Fr Brennan was to be his guest and that he would be responsible for Fr Brennan during his visit.

A statement from the Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre said the visa cancellation raises serious questions.

In a letter yesterday, Fr Brennan reminded Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock of the minister's advice to Fr Brennan on 28 May that arrangements in Nauru were working well "without any outside interference".

Fr Brennan said in the statement: "If Mr Ruddock or other officers of the Australian government are not in a position to assist with requests for reasonable access to Nauru in the future, Australian citizens like myself will be left with the justified perception that we are denied access because the Nauruan government is anxious to implement the will of the Australian government that Australian citizens not be granted ready access to Nauru while there are asylum seekers being kept there in detention."

He said: "Such action by government is a gross interference with freedom of religion and freedom of association of persons."

These freedoms are guaranteed in the Nauruan constitution.

Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre

Priest's visa cancelled (The Advertiser) payment required
Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre

Ruddock - Detention centre best option (The Mercury)
Family Fights Deportation (Catholic Leader)
Ruddock wins fight to detain children (The Advertiser)
Toowoomba Catholics urge family values in asylum seeker policy (5/8/03)
Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference Statement on asylum seekers in detention (29/11/02)
Catholic Bishops advise on the Care of Migrants and Refugees (11/7/01)

8 Aug 2003