Catholic Religious Australia and Refugee Week

June 19, 2008 3:05 pm

Refugee week, 2008 CRA calls for bold immigration transformation Australia’s Catholic Religious have called on their fellow Australians to boldly transform this nation’s immigration system to address the contemporary context of peoples on the move and to fully respect their dignity and rights. ‘The great challenge for us as a nation is that we must now move beyond repealing the worst features of our immigration laws and policies,’ the President of Catholic Religious Australia, Fr Mark Raper SJ, said today. ‘We hope for an immigration system in which asylum claims are assessed in ways that are compatible with Australia’s ordinary legal system, international human rights principles, and Australia’s international treaty obligations. ‘Catholic Religious Australia calls on the Rudd Government to start afresh with a fair and humane system that gives protection to people who have a demonstrated humanitarian need, especially those who have suffered torture, violence, trafficking and mental illness.’ Speaking on behalf of more than 8000 men and women Religious, he said: ‘It is time to move beyond a system where many important powers, such as the power of community release, are exercised at the sole discretion of the Minister. ‘With clear laws, policies and principles, administrative decision makers and courts could exercise these powers with greater transparency, consistency and the opportunity for judicial review.’ In a statement released to mark Refugee Week (June 15-21), Catholic Religious Australia welcomes the abolition of Temporary Protection Visas for unauthorised arrivals and says that expanding the refugee and special humanitarian intakes is a positive move. ‘We hope that even more generous intakes will follow in future.’ CRA says that it is encouraged to hear of plans for the improvement of conditions at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre and it welcomes the Case Management and Community Care pilot programme announced in the Federal Budget. ‘The Case Management and Community Care pilot programme reflects our long held belief that community-based options are both feasible and preferable to detention,’ Fr Raper said. Moves to boost assistance to recent arrivals to develop English language skills and become orientated to Australian workplace culture also have been welcomed. But CRA regrets the retention of the Christmas Island facility as Australia’s main centre for processing unauthorised arrivals. ‘We religious have been privileged to accompany, serve and advocate for asylum seekers and refugees in Australia and in many places abroad,’ Fr Raper said. ‘Our shared journey towards the justice of God’s reign continues.’