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Perth Archbishop urges Govt to free children from immigration detention

Archbishop Barry Hickey has called on the Federal Government to release all young children from immigration detention centres, along with their parents or carers so they can live in a normal community setting.

The Perth Archbishop, currently in Rome, made the appeal in a pastoral letter prepared for Universal Children's Day on Wednesday.

He questioned why the welfare of the children is not paramount and why they have to be used to test the powers of the Government over refugee issues.

He says it is sad that recent court decisions have forced the reluctant release of some children from the Baxter detention centre when he says common humanity should have been reason enough.

Meanwhile two Afghan asylum seeker boys studying at the Jesuits' St Ignatius College in Adelaide were deported on Saturday, and the school fears eight of its students face a similar fate.

The two Afghan teenagers, Safar Fidaie and Ismail Ibrahimi, had been released from detention centres last year so they could attend the school.

Now they are 18 and refused refugee status, the teenagers faced going back into detention or being deported.

Headmaster Fr Greg O'Kelly told the ABC that fears further deportations as the remaining students reach 18.

"It's thousands of dollars to send them back, they've suffered, they've been in detention centres, they've left families, they've had to be under the care of minders and a Minister could have changed that," he said.

"Are we going to do this eight times over?"

The two teenagers chose to be deported on Saturday as part of a deal with the Federal Government, which the school says will secure the boys return within six weeks on student visas."

In a further development, a letter signed by former Immigration Minister Phili Ruddock ordered the deportation Hobart St Mary's College refugee student Ruth Cruz Mendoza to her native El Salvador. However a subsequent communication from Mr Ruddock's succesesor Amanda Vanstone said talks would take place to enable Ruth to finish Year 11 and to "canvass options" for her to complete Year 12 in Australia next year. But under the Migration Act, Ruth cannot apply for another visa while she remains in Australia.

ABC/ABC/The Mercury

Iraqi refugee family ends roof top protest (ABC)
Australia to deport 'orphan' teen (The Age)
Double refugee intake: church head (The Age)
Iraqi family continues detention centre protest (ABC)

20 Oct 2003