Australian Bishops call for compassionate leadership on asylum seekers

12/05/2010

Refugees are desperate human beings who have suffered great trauma. As a nation, we are called to respond with justice and compassion, say the Catholic Bishops of Australia.

This week, as the Catholic Bishops of Australia meet in Sydney, they have called on the government to lift the suspension of processing for Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum seekers.

The Bishops call on all sides of politics to show positive leadership on refugee policy.

“Mandatory detention, especially in remote places such as Christmas Island and Curtin RAAF base, as the government indicates, is a costly exercise that adds to the trauma already endured by people seeking asylum. It also creates stress for staff who are doing what they can under difficult circumstances”, the Bishops said.

“Political leaders have a particular responsibility to avoid demonizing or stereotyping asylum seekers.

“While aware of the complexities of the issue and the challenges presented, but conscious of the need to avoid using asylum seekers being used as political capital, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference asks political parties to confer in order to formulate a policy on the treatment of asylum seekers that does justice to their human dignity”, they said.

“Australia is not being inundated by people seeking asylum. In fact we receive only a small proportion of the world’s displaced people. The greatest burden in giving shelter to refugees is borne by countries that are far poorer and more crowded than Australia”, the Bishops said.

“Australia was among the first nations to sign the refugee convention and has benefited from the energy and enterprise of 750,000 refugees since federation.

“We should keep faith with this history. In the past, Australia has established humane and constructive policies towards asylum seekers – for example, during the 1980s when boat people were fleeing from Vietnam and Cambodia.

“That past reveals that Australia can rise above its current response to once more act with compassion and justice towards these vulnerable people”, the Bishops said.


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