One of the greatest crises of our day is the plight of people forced from their own countries by war, persecution or poverty and forced to live without a home, without safety and often separated from their families, Archbishop Denis Hart, President, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said today (13 October 2016).
Pope Francis has called on Catholics to welcome such vulnerable people as our brothers and sisters. In Australia, we do not have to directly meet the responsibilities that many other nations bear. But we do bear the shame of the expulsion and harsh treatment of the people who sought our protection only to be detained on Nauru and Manus Island.
International agencies have been appalled by the conditions under which they live and the effects on their health, spirits and self-respect. Pope Francis, to whom people detained on Manus Island have written, has also expressed his deep concern. The human costs on the detainees are mounting by the day.
The Australian Catholic Bishops also deplore the detention of our brothers and sisters on Nauru and Manus Island. While recognising the effort of the Government to find a solution, we say that enough is enough. We call on the Government to bring offshore detainees to Australia while awaiting further decisions on their future. Continue reading →
The decision of the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court that the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal is a welcome sign of hope for those currently in detention on Manus Island, Fr Maurizio Pettenà, Director of the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, said today.
“This ruling is important because it highlights the fact that governments have human rights obligations under domestic and international laws.
We also welcome the decision of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill, to close the Manus Island detention centre as a result of the ruling.
The Australian Government’s response to people seeking asylum should first and foremost focus on respecting their human dignity.
I urge the Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, to use this opportunity to show leadership and act to end indefinite mandatory offshore detention.
If the Australian Government insists on returning people to their country of origin or moving people to other countries as a result of this decision, the Government must ensure no asylum seeker is at risk of persecution or violence.
The Catholic Church opposes mandatory indefinite detention and offshore detention, these policy responses do not respect the dignity of people seeking our refuge.
Whilst Governments have a responsibility to manage migration flows into countries, the Australian Government’s approach is harsh and needs to change; the dignity of the human person must always come first.”
In response to the decision of the High Court that it is legal to send and detain asylum seekers in off-shore detention places, some Christian Communities have offered the right of sanctuary in their churches, as a solution to prevent these people from being sent to Nauru.
As an immediate response I wish to say that this is a very generous offer. It shows the care and concern these Christian Communities have towards those most in need and suffering persecution. This has been met with the support from many people who are appalled and shamed by the High Court decision.
It is sad, though, that since the announcement by the Anglican Dean of Brisbane the Reverend Dr Peter Catt, attention has drastically shifted to focus on the offer of sanctuary rather than the situation of asylum seekers or refugee claimants themselves. Continue reading →
The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council has voiced its concern regarding Australia’s detention of children and their families.
ACSJC Chairman Bishop Christopher Saunders said: “That asylum seekers, including children, have now been sent to Manus should set the alarm bells ringing. Having witnessed first-hand the conditions in Australia’s detention centres, and following Amnesty reports of the crisis on Nauru, we hold grave concerns for their wellbeing.”
The ACSJC holds that the tactical decision to excise Australia from its own migration zone does not relieve us of our obligations under the Refugee Convention and the Covenant on the Rights of the Child.
“No child should be detained indefinitely in any onshore or offshore facility. No person should be detained indefinitely in an environment we know causes long-term harm”, Bishop Saunders said.
“It is hard to fathom the Government’s expenditure of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on indefinite offshore detention. This ‘no advantage’ policy is sure to cause harm but it cannot guarantee its policy objective of deterring desperate people.
“We remind all Australians that it is not illegal to seek asylum in Australia.
“We oppose the policy of prolonged detention of asylum seekers but we are particularly concerned about its effects on vulnerable people, especially children.
“We call on the Australian Government to release immediately all children and their families from immigration detention whether that is on the mainland or in these offshore camps”, Bishop Saunders concluded.
For further information:
Bishop Christopher Saunders, Chairman, ACSJC, Tel: 0418 260 155
John Ferguson, National Executive Officer, ACSJC, Tel: 02 8306 3499
To mark Australia Day, the Catholic Bishops Commission for Justice, Ecology and Development calls upon political parties to work towards a common approach to asylum seekers, so that human beings do not become pawns in a political argument. Further, and more immediately, to honour the Australian sense of justice and compassion, there must be a defined limit to incarceration in detention centres for people who are not criminals. The Bishops are calling on the Government to limit detention to three months.
Four of the Bishops who signed this statement minister directly to asylum seekers in immigration detention centres located in their dioceses. Bishop Julian Porteous, Auxiliary Bishop in Sydney, supported the opinions of the other Bishops who have direct involvement in the pastoral care of asylum seekers in detention. “Prolonged and indefinite detention in these facilities can only produce psychological damage”, he said. Continue reading →
23 December 2011
The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office today urged both political parties to show moral leadership over the Christmas period with regard to policy debates on asylum seekers and refugees.
Director of the ACMRO Fr Maurizio Pettenà CS expressed the view that people seeking asylum need to be processed in countries who are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention and who can assure them of the opportunity to rebuild their lives in dignity.
“Richer countries like Australia have a moral duty to do more to help the world’s refugees who are mostly hosted by poorer nations” he said.
“Christmas reminds us that it is in giving that we receive. This applies even more so to how much we give to those who seek asylum. Increasing the humanitarian program is an appropriate outcome that both political parties can agree on.” Continue reading →
Bishop Joe Grech and Fr Maurizio Pettena concelebrating Mass with Bishops and Priests in Sydney, May, 2010.
By Fr Maurizio Pettena CS
Bishop Joe is still very much a holy presence in my life. I remember very vividly last year on the 23rd of December when he called me at about 10pm at night and asked me what I was doing.
He said he wasn’t feeling too well. He kept feeling worse, and the doctor recommended that he be hospitalised. On Christmas Eve, he was.
He rang me as he was being admitted to the hospital and asked me if I could come and be with him. A few hours later, I was there in Melbourne at St Vincent’s private hospital where I found him in his usual joking mood.
The doctor came in, amused by the jovial character and positive in his outlook. Continue reading →
Yesterday, I stood in front of the Nativity scene that is displayed in front of St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney and considered it for a moment. The Christmas story, as always during December, is much on my mind and in my prayer this week. Even David Jones just down the road has a beautiful display in its windows of puppets re-enacting the Christmas story, complete with baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the three kings and the angels. A huge group of tourists had gathered to watch the mechanical puppets, taking photos and in some way, celebrating what Christmas is about. Continue reading →
The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (ACMRO) today expressed sorrow over the tragedy which has resulted in the deaths of a possible 160 people, mostly thought to be asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Iran.
This time last year, a similar tragedy occurred when just short of safety, a boat carrying 50 Middle Eastern asylum seekers crashed off the rocks of Christmas Island. Continue reading →
Monsignor John J. Murphy, former Director of the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office concluded his journey here on earth, Monday, November 14, 2011. The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office joins the many people who mourn and offer prayers for this truly good and faithful servant of Jesus Christ and of the Church. Continue reading →
Millions of families in Myanmar are the hidden face of Thailand’s flood devastation, confronted with financial ruin as relentless waters cripple the Thai economy.
Large numbers of Myanmar’s impoverished population rely heavily on so-called “remittances” _ money sent back from bordering nations like Thailand by loved ones working illegally, often in the construction industry. Continue reading →