Bishops oppose boat people processing plan

The Australian Bishops have written to Prime Minister John Howard urging him to drop proposed laws currently before parliament to process all asylum seeker claims offshore.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the letter, which acknowledged the government's need to protect Australia's national security, pressed the government to consider the effects the legislation would have on genuine asylum seekers.

The Church's refugee spokesman Bishop Joseph Grech said the letter urged the government not to sacrifice compassion for those who are in genuine need of help and asylum.

"The letter expresses our concern about the decision to process refugee claims of boat people at detention centres beyond Australian shores, where they will have no access to proper legal advice or the human support they need," he said.

"We are especially concerned that women and children may again be held in detention for an unspecified amount of time."

Under the proposed legislation, all asylum seekers landing on the mainland will be sent to offshore detention centres in Nauru or Papua New Guinea's Manus Island to be processed.

Refugee advocates fear the changes are a backwards step after the softening of the government's stance on immigration detention last year.

The proposed legislation will continue to be debated in the House of Representatives when parliament resumes later this month.

Boat people processing plan opposed (Sydney Morning Herald/Australian Associated Press 17/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Australian Catholic Migration and Refugee Office

Bishop says asylum processing changes "a step backwards" (CathNews 20/4/06)

Catholic Bishops write to Prime Minister urging him to reconsider changes to asylum processing laws (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 17/5/06)
Pope Calls on Christians to Welcome Immigrants (The Universe 17/5/06)
U.S. Bishops Wary Of National Guard Along Border; Urge Reform Of Immigration Laws (US Conference of Catholic Bishops 15/5/06)

18 May 2006