“Asylum seekers should never be used as pawns in defence of Australia’s borders,” said Marcelle Mogg, CEO Catholic Social Services Australia.
Speaking in response to participant discussions on Australia’s response to the current global refugee crisis at the Review, Reimagine, Renew Conference in Melbourne, Ms Mogg said that Australia must stop using people fleeing conflict as a deterrent to others seeking asylum in this country.
“Australia’s political leaders have accused people seeking asylum of base motives such as placing children at risk in their efforts to secure a place in Australia. Yet our policies of deterrence do just this: we retain children in detention indefinitely, turn back boats at sea, and detain people off-shore who have every legal right to claim asylum in Australia. And we do this all in the name of ‘deterrence’.
“Australia’s response to people seeking asylum must reflect our regard for their humanity, dignity and vulnerability.
“Catholic Social Services Australia calls on all people of goodwill in the Australian community to join us in urging all political leaders, in Government and in Opposition, to abandon their current stance of using the most vulnerable people as a deterrent to others, and create immigration policies that uphold the rights and dignity of people seeking asylum.
“In this Year of Mercy we recognise that people fleeing conflict deserve our protection and our support. Our current policies of indefinite detention and off-shore processing do not reflect our shared humanity or our duty to protect the most vulnerable,” Ms Mogg said.
Catholic Social Services Australia calls on Australia’s political leaders to work together to develop immigration policies that:
• Are in full compliance with Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on Refugees
• Uphold the human rights of people fleeing conflict and persecution
• Ensure that people in neighbouring countries seeking asylum in Australia have access to clear and transparent processes for application
• Periods of detention required to determine the identity and health status of people seeking asylum are kept to a minimum
• Children in the company of families are prioritised in the determination of applications for asylum.
• Unaccompanied minors are under the care and protection of an independent guardian.
• People awaiting determination of their application for asylum are afforded the right to work, to access health care, housing, education and social security benefits in order to secure the basic human resources to maintain their personal dignity.
• Any person held in detention, for any length of time, is afforded full access to health care, legal representation, and safe accommodation.
• Reports of abuse and harm experienced by people in detention must be subject to immediate investigation and subject to review by the High Court.
“In coming together with the participants of the Review, Reimagine, Renew Conference, Catholic Social Services Australia renews its commitment to create communities marked by justice, dignity and respect for all people, especially those who are most vulnerable.
“We recognise that Australia is part of a global human community, and that our obligation as followers of Christ to care for one another extends well beyond the borders of sovereignty, culture and religion.”
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