Politicians Must Stop Using Asylum Seekers as Political Football

Media Release

Monday 21 February 2011

 Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has called on both the Government and the Opposition to stop using asylum seekers as political footballs.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the behaviour of both sides of politics last week over the handling of asylum seekers attending funerals of family members was deplorable and insensitive.

“Both sides of politics are clearly shaping their decisions and comments to pander to mean-spirited attitudes towards asylum seekers within the community,” Mr Arndt said.

“It is high time that all our politicians gave leadership on this issue rather than giving in to the callous, negative attitudes of some in the community,” he said.

 “Raising questions about the Government flying twenty-two asylum seekers from Christmas Island to Sydney to attend the funerals of family members on the very day of the funerals is heartless and insensitive,” he said.

“Sending nine year old Iranian orphan, Seena, back to Christmas Island instead of to family in Sydney is an equally deplorable act,” he said.

“These actions seem to have no regard or respect for the Christmas Island asylum seekers as human beings who have gone through immense trauma,” he said.

“They seem to be no more than tools to score points or get a cheap headline,” he said.

“Seena and all the other asylum seekers on Christmas Island and elsewhere in Australia deserve not only compassion, but justice,” he said.

 “All human beings, especially those who have experienced great trauma, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect as a matter of justice,” he said.

“We should not be locking up traumatised people in overcrowded facilities in remote, isolated locations with inadequate support services for long periods, as the recent Ombudsman’s report says,” he said.

 “Australia should not have a thousand children like Seena in detention if it has any sense of decency and justice,” he said.

 “Our political leaders should know better,” he said.

 “How can they speak with any authority when they criticise other countries for abusing human rights if they do not respect human rights in the way they treat asylum seekers in our own country?” he said.

 “We as Christians should be making it clear to our politicians that we want them to treat asylum seekers with compassion and justice,” he said.

“We have a responsibility to speak up for our sisters and brothers in need,” he said.

 “We should all be making it clear to our leaders and our MPs that we will not tolerate the political games we have seen over the past week,” he said.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

 NB This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right. The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

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