World Council of Churches head shocked by Baxter detention centre
After visiting South Australia's Baxter Detention Centre yesterday, World Council of Churches (WCC) General-Secretary Rev Dr Sam Kobia vowed to confront the Federal Government with the view that "there is a problem with the policy" of asylum-seeker detention.
The Adelaide Advertiser reports that Dr Kobia "appeared shocked" by what he had seen, which included "psychological and emotional torture".
"I found it an awful situation in which to detain people who are not even criminals," he said. "They are in maximum security and there is evidence of depression and psychological and emotional torture."
However, he said there was no evidence of physical torture, with a case of force-feeding by guards the only thing which he said "came close" to physical abuse.
"I will get to the Federal Government to give them feedback on our point of view," he said. "I am not complaining about the administration of Baxter, but I consider there is a problem with the policy of the Government."
Dr Kobia also criticised the Federal Government's decision to abolish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). He said he is dismayed that progress made by Indigenous Australians is being undone, and he has accused the Federal Government of taking away the voice of Aborigines.
But Indigenous Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone says she is at a loss to understand Dr Kobia's criticism, insisting ATSIC was scrapped because the system was not working.
Dr Kobia is in Adelaide today to open the National Council of Churches of Australia (NCCA) forum at Lincoln College, North Adelaide.
The Catholic Church is a full member of the NCCA, while it remains an observer at the WCC.
Baxter dads to join children (The Advertiser 9/7/04)
Religious figure criticises ATSIC scrapping (ABC West Coast SA 8/7/04)
Asylum seekers return to Baxter in protest (The Age 9/7/04)
World church leader to visit Baxter, Aboriginal communities (ABC 8/7/04)
Asia's religious mix sets good example, says WCC's Kobia (Ecumenical News International 8/7/04)
'Protestant Pope' to visit Australia (CathNews 7/7/04)
National Council of Churches of Australia | At the cross roads: Living in a changing world, Lincoln College North Adelaide South Australia 9-13 July 2004 (National Council of Churches of Australia)
World Council of Churches
Nun seeking relief for detained asylum seeker family (CathNews 8/7/04)
9 Jul 2004