Bishop highlights asylum seeker and trafficking concerns

Sandhurst Bishop Joseph Grech has called for attention to be paid to the human trafficking issue and to the government's proposed changes to asylum seeker laws in the lead up to this year's Refugee and Migrant Sunday next month.

In a statement released today, Bishop Grech reminds Catholics that trafficking in human beings from other countries, especially in women and children, is a tragic reality in Australia.

Bishop Grech says that the Australian bishops have written to the Prime Minister welcoming the advances made by the Government towards the elimination of trafficking in women and children.

But reflecting a current campaign by a group of religious nuns from around Australia who are urging the Government to take a "human rights-based, victim-centred approach" to trafficking, the Bishop warns that the focus must be on "individual human rights of the trafficked people rather than on what they might contribute to our legal and administrative processes in bringing traffickers to justice."

The Bishop recommended the Government establish a national task force to investigate, review and coordinate responses to human trafficking in Australia, and requested that the Church be represented on such a task force.

Bishop Grech says that during the plenary meeting in May the bishops also wrote to the Prime Minister on the proposed changes to refugee laws.

The Federal Government announced in April a proposal to introduce legislation to process asylum claims offshore from all unauthorised boat arrivals, even if they reached mainland Australia. The passage of the legislation is currently delayed because of the concerns of some Government members of Parliament.

Bishop Grech concluded his statement by reminding the faithful that "the Church sees this entire world of suffering and violence through the eyes of Jesus, who was moved with pity at the sight of the crowds wandering as sheep without a shepherd."

"Hope, courage, love and 'creativity in charity' must inspire the necessary human and Christian efforts made to help these brothers and sisters in their suffering," he said.

Meanwhile, in preparing for this year's Refugee and Migrant Sunday, the Director of the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, Msgr John Murphy also insisted on the Gospel call to welcome migrants.

"Christians must promote a culture of welcome," he said in message delivered to parishes and schools. "Remember St Paul's words: 'Welcome one another then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God' (Rom 15:7).

"Parishes must rethink pastoral care to help the faithful live their faith in today's multicultural and pluri-religious context," Msgr Murphy added.

"In religious instruction and catechesis suitable means must be found to create in the Christian conscience a sense of welcome, especially for the poorest and most needy, as migrants often are. This welcome is fully based on love for Christ, in the certainty that good done out of love of God to one's neighbour, especially the most needy, is done to him," he said.

Statement by Bishop Grech (27/7/06)
Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (Media Release, Refugee and Migrant Sunday)
Message of Pope Benedict XVI for the 92nd World Day of Migrants and Refugees (18/10/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office
Anti-slavery Project

Multicultural Refugee Sunday message goes against the tide (CathNews 25/8/05)

27 Jul 2006