Wednesday 31 March 2010
Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has urged Catholics to be voices for fairness and compassion for asylum seekers in the current debate over the treatment of asylum seekers arriving by boat.
The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that comments by politicians in both the Government and the Opposition and a recent front page article in the Sunday Mail have the effect of de-humanising asylum seekers and robbing them of their God-given dignity.
“We appeal to Catholics to defend the right of people to seek asylum in our country and to be treated as human beings and not as demons to be feared or as objects to be used for political or commercial benefit,” Mr Arndt said.
“Both major parties are trying to show that they are tough with boat arrivals and they are causing a lot of suffering and unfairness for people seeking asylum,” he said.
“All our politicians need to remember that Australia is a signatory to the international convention which recognises the right of people fleeing persecution and violence to seek asylum,” he said.
“We, as a nation which says it respects and defends human rights, should not be trying to turn asylum seekers away or get other countries to hold them in unsatisfactory conditions,” he said.
“Whipping up fears that we are being over-run by asylum seekers is simply dishonest and leads to mis-treatment of people,” he said.
“We should remember that less than 25000 people have come by boat seeking asylum in Australia in more than 30 years,” he said.
“That is no flood and no reason to propose harsh and inhuman treatment of asylum seekers nor to create fear about boat arrivals,” he said.
“We should also expect that the media should be responsible in covering the current asylum seeker debate,” he said.
“The Sunday Mail’s recent front page story on asylum seekers being taken on a supervised shopping trip in Brisbane was regrettable,” he said.
“The headline ‘They’re Here’ gives you the impression that the paper thinks we have something to fear,” he said.
“People who seek asylum should have their claims for protection assessed and, if they prove to be legitimate, be recognised as refugees,” he said.
“We should reject the attempts by fearmongers in politics and the media to foster resentment towards our fellow human beings,” he said.
“As Christians, we see asylum seekers as our sisters and brothers,” he said.
“It is our responsibility to defend their human dignity and to encourage our politicians and the community to treat them with compassion and fairness,” he said.