Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Truth about Asylum Seekers

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Attached is a double-sided leaflet which you can print and use to letterbox your street or neighbourhood during the 2013 Federal election: The Truth about Asylum Seekers

Why Do Asylum Seekers Flee to Countries around the World including Australia?

Long before asylum seekers make the decision to board a boat for a risky journey to places like Europe and Australia, they have faced enormous danger in their homeland. Today, living in our community are:

• Sri Lankan men who have lost legs and arms as a result of indiscriminate bombing of civilians in the Sri Lankan civil war;
• Sri Lankan women and men who have been repeatedly raped by soldiers;
• Young Hazara men who have fled Afghanistan after their fathers, brothers and uncles have been murdered and dismembered simply because of their ethnicity and religion.

Asylum Seekers are fleeing from horrible situations. They are not in the same category as people who decide to migrate to Australia for a better life. They simply cannot fit into an “orderly migration” program.

They are desperate people fleeing for their lives. They are doing exactly what we would do if we were in the same situation!

Why Don’t Asylum Seekers Stay in Malaysia or Indonesia?

There are tens of thousands of asylum seekers and refugees in countries in our region like Malaysia and Indonesia. None of these countries is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. This means that asylum seekers are not guaranteed protection and may be very vulnerable. Many asylum seekers in these countries may wait for many years before they are processed and resettled. In the meantime, they may have very limited access to accommodation, health services, education, work and income. In some of our regional neighbours, asylum seekers have been beaten, brutally caned and even locked up in jail.

If you fled from danger and found you and your family faced more danger and deprivation, wouldn’t you try to find somewhere safer where your fears could end? Asylum seekers who try to get to Australia or other countries by boat know they are taking an enormous risk, but they are desperate to find safety and freedom.

Why Is It Good for Australia to Welcome Asylum Seekers?

Asylum seekers are not terrorists or criminals or bludgers. They are people fleeing persecution and seeking hope, freedom, safety and life.

The most recent data produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that asylum seekers are 45 times less likely to have police charges laid against them than other Australians.

In our community today, there are thousands of asylum seekers who have been recognised as refugees. They are living normal lives with their families. They are working hard, sending their children to school and making a positive contribution to the community. They are free of the danger and fear from which they fled and they are deeply grateful to Australia for giving them safety and freedom.

Why does Australia’s Asylum Seeker Policy Cost So Much?

Australia’s asylum seeker policy costs so much because successive Governments have chosen harsh policies in a vain attempt to deter people from coming to our shores. Locking up asylum seekers in detention centres and sending them to countries like PNG and Nauru for processing costs a lot.

After all this expense, Government figures show that over 90% of asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat are refugees. Many of them are traumatised by their treatment here and need substantial medical support and counselling to overcome the psychological damage caused by their prolonged detention in Australia or in our offshore processing centres.

Australia did not always lock asylum seekers up or send them overseas. In the 1970s, when over 1 million Vietnamese people fled persecution in their homeland and took to boats in search of safety, it is estimated that between 50,000 and 200,000 people drowned. Back then, Australia did not do what we are doing now. We cooperated with countries in the region and with settling countries like the USA, France, Canada and Great Britain to settle over 1 million refugees. Australia alone settled 137,000 Vietnamese refugees without locking them up or sending them to other countries for processing!

Is There a Better Way to Deal with Asylum Seekers?

Nobody wants people drowning while attempting to get to Australia; but stopping people coming here by boat will not stop the drownings. In the last 6 years, just over 1,000 asylum seekers have tragically drowned trying to come to Australia. More than a thousand asylum seekers have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in just the last 6 months. If we were able to stop boats coming to Australia, we would only shift this awful problem elsewhere. We would not stop the drownings, just where they happened.

If Australia wants to stop the terrible drownings in our region and to respond constructively to the plight of asylum seekers in our region, we need to work respectfully with countries in our region like Malaysia and Indonesia where there are many asylum seekers and with countries which can resettle refugees just like former PM Malcolm Fraser did in the 1970s with the cooperation of the Labor Opposition. We worked with our neighbours to process refugee claims in the region and joined with suitable resettlement countries like the USA to offer a significant number of places for them to start a new life free from fear.

This is the only sensible way to put the people smugglers out of business; and it is the only way to humanely treat desperate, traumatised people who are only doing what we would do to save ourselves and our families.

PLEASE URGE CANDIDATES IN YOUR ELECTORATE TO SUPPORT ASYLUM SEEKER POLICIES WHICH STOP THE DROWNINGS AND GIVE THEM HOPE OF SAFETY AND FREEDOM.

Written and authorised by Peter Arndt on behalf of the BRASS Network, c/- 143 Edward Street, Brisbane Q 4000.

Translate Desire for Communion with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples into Action

In May this year, members of the Archdiocesan Murri Ministry Team and the Justice and Peace Commission joined with the Aboriginal Catholic community of Stradbroke Island to remember the establishment of the first Catholic Aboriginal mission in Australia and to renew the commitment of the Church of Brisbane to a deep and lasting bond with the first peoples of this land.

At that special celebration, Archbishop Coleridge told us that the desire for a deep bond of communion with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples did not die with the failure of the mission on Stradbroke Island. This desire remains strong within the Church today.

He also told us that the Church is committed to honouring the dignity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by seeking to empower them to shape their own future.

The Archdiocesan Murri Ministry Team and Justice and Peace Commission embrace the Archbishop’s words with great passion and joy and urge parishes, schools and agencies around the Archdiocese to also embrace his words wholeheartedly and turn them into action.

At the 2011 Census, there were 12,935 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics living in the Archdiocese of Brisbane. There are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics living in every parish. In some, there is only a handful. In many, there are dozens and even hundreds. Yet, we know that very few come to parishes for the celebration of the Eucharist each Sunday.

We acknowledge the many efforts in parishes, schools and agencies over many years to reach out to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We encourage these efforts to continue and to grow.

We encourage every parish, school and agency to not only strive to be a community of welcome and hospitality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but to also go out into the community to meet and dialogue with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples where they live.

We also encourage parishes, schools and agencies to make efforts to develop a greater understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and spirituality. More opportunities for cross-cultural training and education are needed to enable this to happen.

On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we also urge parishes, schools and agencies to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in their struggle for dignity and empowerment. In this regard, we especially recommend that efforts be made to learn about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A commitment to understand their relationship with the land and the sea, their experience of racism and their struggle against disadvantage and inequity will strengthen and deepen the bonds of communion to which the God of love constantly invites us.

This commitment requires more than an annual celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday. It needs a concerted effort every day of every year. Building trust with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is not easy. Years of humiliation and hurt have created significant barriers between us. Nevertheless, this is a task which is part and parcel of the mission of the Church in our place and time. We invite all Catholics to embrace this task, not as a burden, but as a wonderful gift from God.

This statement is issued by the Commission with the support of the Murri Ministry Team. For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.