Bishops' refugee office slams proposed asylum changes

As resistance to unjust asylum grows around the world, Australian Catholic and Migrant Refugee Office director, Fr John Murphy, has labelled the Federal government's proposed asylum law changes as "complicated and silly."

The Catholic Leader reports that speaking on World Refugee Day on Tuesday, Australian Catholic and Migrant Refugee Office director Fr John Murphy reaffirmed the Church's opposition to mandatory detention.

Amendments, which would mean all boatpeople would be processed in offshore detention centres, were listed for debate in the House of Representatives on 20 June but were delayed as the Government continued talks with a group of dissident backbenchers who opposed the changes.

Fr Murphy said a letter from the Australian Catholic bishops to Prime Minister John Howard in May urged him to reconsider proposed legislation to process all boatpeople asylum claims offshore.

Meanwhile, Ekklesia reports that there is a growing grassroots movement of individuals in France and across Europe motivated by humanitarian and religious concern offering protection to asylum seekers and refugees threatened with deportation.

Citing a BBC story, Ekklesia reports on the case of a French teacher currently hiding two Congolese schoolchildren who fled the war in their country, because with their mother they otherwise face deportation back to a highly dangerous situation.

The woman risks imprisonment for her actions, but she was deeply moved by the plight of the children and felt that she had to do something. She has provided what the boys' mother describes as "shelter, financial, personal and moral support… she has been incredible."

The Ekklesia report says the teacher is part of "a small, growing and largely unreported resistance movement against the tendency of populist politicians to try to win support by scapegoating migrants."

It says "sanctuary movements have also developed in the United States, Canada and a number of other developed countries - since it is global disparities in wealth which are worsening the refugee and asylum problems."

"Those seeking a more radical approach, including Ekklesia, the UK Christian think tank, point out that in a world in which capital can migrate in an instant it is both impractical and immoral for national states to use harshly restrictive policies against people movements," the report concluded.

Asylum changes 'silly' (Catholic Leader 23/6/06)
French resistance to unjust asylum laws (Ekklesia 22/06/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office)

Jesuit Refugee Service says Pacific Solution breaches Convention (CathNews 18/4/06)
Refugee increase wins Church praise (CathNews, 25/3/04)

23 Jun 2006