Catholic News - Catholic Telecommunications, a devision of Catholic Resources





Office slams Govt kneejerk reaction to boatpeople arrival

The Bishops' Migrant and Refugee Office says the Federal Government's decision to remove more islands from Australia's migration zone is an overaction that will do nothing to fix border security.

The excision was rushed into law on Tuesday night after 14 people on an Indonesian fishing boat arrived at Melville Island, off the coast of the Northern Territory. The excision removes the legal right of the new arrivals to claim asylum in Australia.

Office Director Director Fr John Murphy said the excision would only compound the problems experienced in the now-discredited Pacific Solution.

"These 14 people should be given the opportunity to state their claims and, if they are seeking asylum, they should have their claims processed in Australia according to the international conventions to which Australia is a party," Fr Murphy said.

"Excising Australian territory from the migration zone won't stop people from trying to seek asylum here and, based on the experience of Nauru, it won't prevent genuine refugees from eventually being settled here," he said.

"It will just lead to lengthy delays in the processing of claims offshore and the unnecessarily long-term detention of people seeking protection."

Meanwhile Jesuit human rights lawyer Fr Frank Brennan (pictured) expressed regret in his nationally-televised address to the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday that politicians remain convinced of their decency in implementing the tough policy on asylum seekers.

Launching his book Tampering with Asylum, Fr Brennan paid tribute to both the public comments of the Australian bishops and the much-needed practical support provided by Catholic dioceses in the remote localities of the Baxter and Woomera detention centres.

"They are saying 'we don't know what the politicians are on about, but these people are living out there and we'll go and visit them'."

He criticised the politicians for exploiting the lives and dignity of the asylum seekers to achieve their own political ambitions.

"It is time for the nation once again to respect the dignity and basic rights of those who come to our shores seeking asylum," he said.

In the Queensland rural diocese of Toowoomba, the Social Justice Commission quoted Melville Island resident Sibby Rioli, who insisted that the Island is part of Australia, and we "need to hear what had caused these people to come to our shores in this fashion."

Commission Executive Officer Mark Copland criticised the Prime Minister and Immigration Minister for describing their own impromptu law change as "clever".

Independent Catholic lobbyist PolMin called on the minor political parties to block the passage of the excision legislation in the Senate.

Excision of more islands not the answer - Catholic refugee office (Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office)
Time to stop tampering with asylum - Fr Frank Brennan (ACBC)
Catholic Social Justice Commission Calls for Compassion rather than Cleverness (Diocese of Toowoomba Social Justice Commission)
Procedural fairness demands new asylum seekers be assessed in Australia (PolMin)

Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office
Fr Frank Brennan: Tampering with Asylum (text, National Press Club launch of Tampering with Asylum, University of Queensland Press, 2003, $30) (Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO)
Tampering with Asylum (University of Queensland Press)
Diocese of Toowoomba | Social Justice Commission
Australian Political Ministry Network Inc (PolMin)
Labor on the defensive (ABC TV 7:30 Report)
Opposition to new exclusions in Australia's migration zone (ABC Radio The World Today)
Validity of excision law to Melville Island boat in question (ABC Radio The World Today)
UNHCR warns excision has no bearing in international law (ABC Radio The World Today)
Storm over boatpeople (The Australian)
Excision crosses ethical border (The Courier-Mail)
More bad judgement on asylum seekers (A Just Australia)

6 Nov 2003