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Tuesday, 11 December 2012 22:31

Making room at the inn for refugees and asylum seekers

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As we journey through Advent and into Christmas, let us remember those for whom Australia has “no room”.  People seeking asylum are being mistreated, punished and even vilified.

Many Catholic Religious visit the detention centres where people seeking asylum are detained and walk with them when they are released into the community.  They hear their stories and witness the trauma caused by having to leave their homelands and embark on perilous and long journeys in the hope of finding freedom.

What is needed is a long term solution that protects the human rights of all and treats them with dignity and respect. 

Recently, several prominent Catholics as well as numerous organisations and commentators have reminded us of our inhumanity towards these people in need. 

In an open letter from Bishop Rayyapu Joseph of Sri Lanka regarding deportations of Sri Lankan people from Australia, he informed us of the terrible plight of deported asylum seekers who have found their way back in the North and East of Sri Lanka. 

“It is common knowledge that those deported back after seeking political asylum abroad are left to live in fear and fright due to being considered as traitors by the Government and its armed Forces,” he pointed out.  

“It is highly dangerous for the asylum seekers from the North and East of Sri Lanka in Australia to be sent back to Sri Lanka in the prevailing political situation in our regions.”

Bishop Joseph has had his life threatened by the Rajapaksa Government but continues to speak out.

In Australia, Fr Aloysious Mowe SJ of Jesuit Refugee Service Australia also strongly spoke out on the government’s decision to apply the “no advantage” test to asylum seekers who arrive by boat and are released into the community. “Asylum seekers should not be punished because they come here by boat,” he said. 

“Neither should they be punished to act as an example or a deterrent to others.  Australia is no longer treating these asylum seekers as human beings with inherent rights and dignity, but as passive instruments of a policy of deterrence.”

Jesuit priest Andrew Hamilton also expressed concern about the misuse of the law regarding asylum seekers. “The rule of law in society is a delicate spider web of relationships that protects the weak from the tyranny of the great.  It is handed on in trust to all of us, and especially to governments, to respect and strengthen. We are all the weaker when it is torn.”