The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council’s Briefing for October is now available to read here.
In his personal briefing, National Executive Officer John Ferguson speaks about the launch of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference 2015-2016 Social Justice Statement, ‘For those who’ve come across the seas: Justice for refugees and asylum seekers’. The launch began with an address by Phil Glendenning, President of the Refugee Council of Australia and Director of the Edmund Rice Centre:
Phil Glendenning commenced by saying that this year’s Social Justice Statement was ‘both timely and needed after what we have witnessed in Australia’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers over the past 20 years. It is as if we have been at war with them.’…
…Mr Glendenning went on to emphasise that in any discussion of refugees, human dignity is central. This means that, in the words of the Statement, ‘it is never right to use human beings as if they are things – means to an end.’ Australia is doing just that and justifying it on the grounds that it ‘stops the boats’ and ‘saves lives’.
In fact, he said, the boats have not been stopped but have been deflected elsewhere. In 2014, 53,000 people embarked on dangerous sea journeys from the Bay of Bengal to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. ‘They have not arrived here. They have however been at sea and moving, risking their lives, and in many cases drowning.’
Other issues include extended detention of innocent people, labelling them ‘illegal’ and ‘queue jumpers’, towing boats back or turning them around, hasty and inadequate screening that send people back to danger, the ‘militarisation of what is a humanitarian issue’, laws that would punish people who report sexual, physical and psychological abuse of detainees on Nauru and Manus, and the ‘establishment of a paramilitary wing of the Immigration Department, the Border Force’.