In the 2013-2014 Social Justice statement Lazarus at our Gates we are called to be a source of hope and assistance to those displaced from their homes as an expression of solidarity to the vulnerable of our world. This hope can be provided by offering “hospitality to the stranger and refuge for those seeking protection”.
We have real opportunity to offer that hope and support next Friday the 8th of November at 6:15pm with a candle light vigil at St Mary’s Cathedral to highlight the plight of Vietnamese catholic asylum seekers at Yongah Hill.
For most of us, it wasn’t until several months ago that news of the ‘escape’ of Vietnamese asylum seekers from the Northam detention centre became public, that we became aware that there are Vietnamese asylum seekers in Australia. As far as most of us knew Vietnam appears to be a beautiful, prosperous and developing country to which many Australians have close ties. And many more of us visit as tourists. Yet not all is well in paradise especially if you are a Christian in some regions of Vietnam. According to visitors to the Northam centre of the 350 Vietnamese asylum seekers detained there about 300 are Catholics from the region of Vinh. According to reports from the Vietnam diocese “Catholics in the diocese of Vinh who reside in the North West region of the Nghe An Province have been repeatedly persecuted for their faith.” The Vietnamese Catholic community is appealing to international community for assistance in voicing concern about these abuses of human rights.
Yet what is Australia’s response to this appeal, according to an article by Nick Olle of the Global Mail we are interrogating these asylum seekers without them having legal representation and sending back en masse to the country they risked their lives to flee. According to Rachel Bell of the Human Rights Law centre “The Australian Government risks perpetrating grave human rights violations when it ‘screens out’ and returns asylum seekers before their cases have been properly assessed.” Some of those being deported were known to have been interviewed by officers from Section 18 of the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security. It was out of fear of the ramifications of those interviews that lead some of the asylum seekers to try to escape from the detention centre and another attempted self harm. Local advocates have expressed concern that these men are being prevented from contacting them or their legal representatives before being moved out of Yongah Hill and presumably returned to Vietnam. “they were given no notice at all, and were not allowed to call or talk to anyone once they were locked in the room. Information blackout for them and us.”
Take one step towards solidarity and send this on to others of good will.