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Bishop says asylum processing changes "a step backwards"


The Government's move to process all asylum seekers offshore is a step backwards and places Australia's international obligations at risk, the Chairman of the Bishops' refugee committee said.

Bishop Joseph Grech, Chairman of the Bishops' Committee for Migrants and Refugees, said Australians would be shocked and disappointed if the government's new policy saw children especially again being sent to detention centres.

Under changes to immigration law announced last week all asylum seekers reaching the Australian mainland by boat will be processed in remote islands like Christmas Island, Nauru or Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

The move is seen as an attempt to avoid further tensions with Indonesia following the granting of refugee status by Australia to 42 asylum seekers from Indonesia's troubled Papua province.

"Last year, the community spoke out very loudly and clearly in support of removing children from detention centres," Bishop Grech said.

"The government listened to the people and acted humanely to free children.

"Now, seemingly because of external pressure, the government is reversing its decision and planning to process all asylum claims in offshore centres"

Bishop Grech said that the West Papuan asylum seekers granted temporary visas this month had been assessed by the proper authorities and found to have genuine claims.

"We simply shouldn't be in a position where pressure from foreign governments leads to changes in our own immigration policy," he said.

"I call on the prime minister to reconsider the planned policy change and to fulfil Australia's international asylum processing obligations on our own soil, treating those who seek our protection with the care and dignity they deserve."


SOURCE
Changes to asylum processing a step backwards - Catholic Bishop (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 19/4/06)

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20 Apr 2006