Federal Government treats foreign aid as a blank cheque

MEDIA RELEASE: August 5, 2013

Kids at a Caritas orphanage await food distribution from Caritas member CRS

Kids at a Caritas orphanage await food distribution from Caritas member CRS

Caritas Australia, the Catholic Church’s international aid and development agency that helps some of the world’s poorest people, is extremely disappointed the Australian Government is once again taking much needed overseas aid money to fund the growing costs for their asylum seeker processing policy.

With the Federal Election called at the weekend for September 7, the government also announced a new deal to reportedly permanently resettle a “modest” number of boat arrivals in the small Pacific Island of Nauru.

Caritas Acting CEO, Jamie Davies, called on all political parties to commit to the aid budget rather than continuing to raid its coffers.

“The aid budget is not like a blank cheque, it’s a finite amount of money that the most marginalised around the world rely on,” Ms Davies said.

“We call on the Federal Government to be fully transparent and specify how the cuts and re-allocations are targeted.

“Our aid dollars work hard to improve lives by tackling poverty, injustice and instability – often addressing the conditions that cause families to seek asylum in the first place.

“Modest investments in aid have had amazing results.”

“In 2011 in Timor-Leste, Australian aid helped immunise 500,000 people against measles, provided 77,000 people with access to safe drinking water, and provided 67,000 people with improved sanitation. All this was achieved with a budget of about $100 million.”

Caritas also reiterated its support for comments from the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office’s (ACMRO) and the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG and Solomon Islands on the importance of finding humane solutions which maintain the human dignity of asylum seekers.

“We share the concerns that our Catholic network have raised – our decision makers must honour the inherent dignity of all human beings and act as one human family to help others who need our help most,” Ms Davies said.

“Caritas and the Catholic community seek to help end poverty, promote justice and uphold dignity. We want all sides of politics to stick to their commitment to increasing Australia’s Official Development Assistance budget to 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income by 2016/17.

“We have a duty as members of one human family to help those who arrive on our shores seeking asylum and to strive with all our resources to assist them no matter how inconvenient this may prove to be.”

Ms Davies said that at Lampedusa, referred to as the “Italian Christmas Island,” Pope Francis recently thanked local residents for taking in refugees and setting an example of solidarity and called on society to resist sliding into “the globalisation of indifference.”

Ms Davies said development programs required long-term commitment and stability.

“The Australian government should not be able to break commitments to the world’s most marginalised people any time it needs to balance its books,” Ms Davies said.

“Dignity and rights should not be compromised under any circumstance, including when seeking asylum.”

For more information contact: Media Advisor, Nicole Clements on 0408 869 833