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Bishops stress urgency of search for detention alternatives

Australia's Catholic Bishops have said that the Government and citizens of Australian must, as a matter of urgency, find alternatives to detention for unaccompanied minors and for children who accompany their parents.

The Bishops, in Plenary Session in Sydney last week, issued the call late on Friday for a response that is "just, compassionate and consistent with Australia's obligations under International Law and the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees and other Conventions to which Australia is a signatory".

The Bishops' statement followed last week's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission finding that the Federal Government is responsible for cases of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detained asylum seeker children.

The Bishops insisted that the solution must preserve the integrity of the family unit.

"Such alternatives must respect the importance of family unity and family reunion, and ensure that children damaged by detention receive adequately funded care in the community."

They noted that Church agencies "have shown their willingness to help in this". Adelaide's Centacare Catholic Welfare agency has played a role of guardian for children of asylum seekers allowed to live outside South Australia's detention facilities.

"We plead the cause of refugees and asylum seekers again because the Gospel compels us to do so," said the Bishops' statement. "We remain hopeful that hearts and minds will change so that the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia may be more humane, more respectful of human dignity."

Catholic Bishops call for urgent response to the needs of asylum seekers and refugees - includes text of statement (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 14/5/04)

Churches join push to release child detainees (ABC North & West SA 15/5/04)
92 Afghans on Nauru win refugee fight (The Age 17/5/04)
Call for Ruddock's resignation over children in detention (SBS 14/5/04)
Detention centres promise to be a hot political issue (ABC Radio PM 14/5/04)
Vatican Warns Catholics Against Marrying Muslims (Reuters 14/5/04)
Vatican Addresses Worldwide Migration (The Guardian/Associated Press 15/5/04)
Australia breaches children's human rights (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 13/5/04)
Asylum seeker children in limbo (CathNews 14/5/04)
HREOC backs Adelaide Centacare on asylum-seeker children's suffering (CathNews 7/5/04)
Children's release from detention "unlawful" (CathNews 30/4/04)
Pope backs Australian bishops on refugees, social justice (CathNews 29/3/04)
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office

17 May 2004