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Thursday, 04 August 2011 02:55

‘Kids out of detention’ welcomed

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Father Tim Norton SVD, Catholic Religious Australia's Acting President, said the announcement was a positive move in the way Australia understands its obligations to people who are fleeing situations of war, poverty and violence.

"Giving people a 'fair go' is in the Australian psyche; we must put this into practice especially with the most vulnerable - the children.

"The location of most detention facilities, along with their overcrowded nature, means that children suffer unnecessary emotional and educational deprivation. Australia can and should do much better than this. It is important for ALL children to be living in suitable accommodation with appropriate supervision and with access to good educational and healthcare facilities."

CRA's members who have been supporting asylum seekers and refugees for many years including the Jesuits, Sisters of Mercy, Loreto Sisters and Christian Brothers through the Edmund Rice Centre, also welcomed the policy.

Father Steve Curtin, Provincial of the Australian Jesuits, said any effort to remove children and vulnerable families from detention, was long overdue.

He said there was substantial evidence that prolonged detention was harmful to the health of people, and the Jesuits were delighted that the government had decided to make this change.

Sister Caroline Ryan, RSM, Vice President of the Institute of Sisters of Mercy Australia, said her Institute was in strong support of the government's decision because it was in keeping with the best principles of Catholic social justice.

She said its deep values of respect for human dignity and human rights are central to the Mercy tradition.

The Sisters of Mercy, who work closely with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), have had long involvement with refugees both overseas and in Australia.  Since December last year four Sisters have spent time on Christmas Island supporting asylum seekers. One Sister currently works at the Curtin Detention Centre, and a number of others are working in various refugee settlement programs.  As well, Mercy Sister Maryanne Loughry, who is the Assistant Director of JRS, is a member of the Minister for Immigration's Council for Immigration Services and Status Resolution.

"Being an asylum seeker is not a crime," said Sister Caroline. "These people are among the most vulnerable. As women committed to the Gospel, it is our privilege and duty to advocate for them."

CRA's members have also welcomed the government's announcement that it will work with community and charitable organisations to rehouse this group of people.

Father Norton said that in partnership with congregations with expertise and experience in this area, CRA would do its utmost to collaborate with the government to provide professional services and accommodation to support these families to settle into new communities.

Father Sacha Bermudez-Goldman, Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, said community and charitable organisations with expertise in this area would be well-placed to collaborate with government in caring for this group of people.

"It is a good opportunity for community and church-based organisations to get involved and make their resources available to this vulnerable group."

Sister Caroline added that a number of Mercy congregations have made housing available to refugee families, as have other Church agencies.

"It is important to say that no housing stock that will be used for these families would be taken from housing for those who are great need such as homeless men and women."