Not At War with Asylum Seekers – NFPs
Thursday, 23rd January 2014 at 2:10 pm
Australian Not for Profits fear the Coalition Government is on a war-like footing with its asylum seeker policy.
The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia has called on Federal Foreign Minister Scott Morrison to take a more rational approach to Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.
“We are not at war with asylum seekers,” Chief Executive Dr John Falzon said.
“People seeking protection in our country are not the enemy. It’s time our government stopped referring to them in this manner. It’s time we took a rational and sensible approach instead of resorting to inhumane actions and paranoid language.
“Many parts of the world continue to experience terrible conflict and human rights violations, leading to tens of millions of displaced people worldwide. Australia is the destination of a proportionally small number of people seeking asylum in comparison to other countries.
“The overwhelming majority of those who seek asylum here are found to be refugees. And then, when embraced by our community, there is strong evidence they contribute enormously to our nation.
“It’s time we replaced paranoia with practicality. It’s time we started being rational in our approach to processing applications for refugee status.”
Vinnies National President, Anthony Thornton, said: “Our members are deeply disturbed by the treatment being meted out to people who have been pushed onto the seas by situations of suffering and persecution.
“We are shocked and ashamed by our nation’s inhumanity to these people, who have every right to seek asylum under the UN Refugee Convention to which Australia is a signatory.
“According to statistics released by the Department on December 31st 2013, there are 1028 children in detention centres and alternative places of detention plus a total of 2067 men, women and children in offshore processing centres in places such as Nauru and PNG,” Thornton said.
In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry, the St Vincent de Paul Society urged the Government to maintain a clear, legislated right of Complementary Protection for asylum seekers who face significant harm if they return home.
The Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, Bishop Christopher Saunders, warned that the Federal Government is in effect conducting a campaign of cruelty towards asylum seekers.
“The Government’s campaign, like that of its predecessors, has only one purpose: to deter desperate men, women and children from seeking protection from persecution and danger,” Bishop Saunders said.
“The Government claims that it is fighting a war. If it is a war, then it is being fought against wretched and defenceless people.
“We are ignoring the most important issue: the millions of people in our region and around the world who need protection and security.
“The only hope for a solution to the refugee problem is international cooperation.
“It seems that friendly relationships with our neighbours are becoming collateral damage in pursuit of an aggressive and callous policy.
“It is time for the Australian Government to act in accordance with its responsibilities under the Refugee Convention and to exercise compassion towards those who come to our shores justly seeking a new life in peace.”