Monday 19 October 2009
In the wake of the current controversy over the treatment of Sri Lankan asylum seekers, Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has called on the Prime Minister to take action to end the detention of Tamil civilians in camps run by the military in Sri Lanka.
The Commission’s Executive officer, Peter Arndt, said that the silence and inaction of the Prime Minister on the plight of Tamils in camps in the north and east of Sri Lanka was unacceptable.
“Attempts by our Government to outsource the processing of the refugee claims of Sri Lankan asylum seekers to Indonesia heaps further suffering and inhumanity on those who are already suffering greatly because of the actions of the Sri Lankan Government,” Mr Arndt said.
“Why is Mr Rudd so blistering in his attacks on people smugglers while he remains silent about the appalling conditions faced by hundreds of thousands of Tamils locked up in camps in Sri Lanka?” he said.
“Why is Mr Rudd so keen to stop Sri Lankan asylum seekers from finding refuge from the horrors they have faced at home, yet is so reluctant to take action to challenge the legality of Sri Lanka’s detention of its own citizens?” he said.
“Representatives of the United Nations and many reputable international organisations such as Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists have spoken out repeatedly about the outrageous conditions and human rights abuses in the Sri lankan detention camps, but Mr Rudd’s Government says nothing but that he will stop Sri Lankans and other asylum seekers from getting to our shores,” he said.
“Other Governments such as Great Britain, France and Sweden are sending senior Ministers to Sri Lanka and preparing to impose sanctions on that country, but all Mr Rudd’s Government is doing is trying to keep suffering Sri Lankans out of Australia,” he said.
Mr Arndt said that the Federal Government should be responding to the plight of asylum seekers with great compassion.
“We should be prepared to accept more refugees from Sri Lanka and should also be part of a much broader international push to find safe homes quickly for the world’s forty million refugees,” Mr Arndt said.
“Mr Rudd promised to be more active in promoting human rights internationally,” he said.
“Why isn’t he urging the British Commonwealth to take strong action against Sri Lanka for its human rights abuses as the Commonwealth did in relation to the coup in Fiji?” he said.
“As Christians, we seek to stand with the Tamil asylum seekers and detainees because Jesus told us that we must respond compassionately to the needs of the hungry, the sick, the stranger who comes to our door and those who are held in prison,” he said.
“We urge Catholics to support those seeking asylum and those in camps in Sri Lanka by continuing to tell their local MPs and Senators that the Government must act to end the suffering of Tamils in Sri Lanka,” he said.
“We must have strong action to address the root cause of this dreadful situation, the Sri Lankan Government’s unacceptable treatment of Tamils,” he said.