Category Archives: Migrants

Commission Welcomes Increased Protection for Queensland Clothing Outworkers

Media Release

Thursday 21 October 2010

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has welcomed the Queensland Government’s introduction of a mandatory code of practice for the protection of clothing outworkers.

The Commission has been involved in lobbying for the introduction of this code for the last two years.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the new code would help to protect the rights of vulnerable clothing outworkers and also support employers who treat their workers fairly.

“We have been very concerned for some years about the plight of some women who work at home to make clothing for unscrupulous employers,” Mr Arndt said.

“Many of these outworkers are being paid very low rates for their work and do not enjoy the protections and conditions that other clothing workers have,” he said.

“This new mandatory code provides them better protection by ensuring that employers who are exploiting outworkers can be identified and prosecuted,” he said.

“Employers who are doing the right thing and providing fair pay and conditions for their workers will also benefit because they will not have their clothing prices undercut by those who underpay their workers,” he said.

“The code will come into effect on 1 January next year and brings Queensland into line with New South Wales and South Australia where a mandatory code has been in force for some years,” he said.

“The only disappointment we have is that the Government has taken so long to complete its consultation process and introduce the code,” he said.

“We are very grateful to the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia and FairWear, a community organisation which promotes the rights of outworkers, for their tireless advocacy of this code,” he said.

“It has been wonderful to collaborate with organisations with such great expertise and a passion for justice for vulnerable workers,” he said.

“The Catholic Church has advocated the rights of workers as part of its social teaching for many years,” he said.

“Indeed, Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 social encyclical, Rerum Novarum, gave the highest priority to providing decent pay and conditions to vulnerable workers,” he said.

“There is no human dignity for women who are being underpaid for their work and who work under poor conditions,” he said.

“Our participation in efforts to get this better protection for outworkers is in line with the Gospel commitment to the fundamental dignity of every human being,” he said.


The Commission will collaborate with other organisations to monitor the introduction of the code and to continue promoting better protection for vulnerable workers.

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 when required.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Commission Criticises Asylum Seeker Decision

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has expressed its concerns about the Federal Government’s decision to suspend processing of protection claims from Sri Lankan and Afghani asylum seekers.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the decision shows no respect or compassion for Sri Lankan and Afghani asylum seekers.

“This blanket suspension of processing claims from Sri Lankans and Afghanis does not treat people as human beings with personal stories and experiences but as bureaucratic categories devoid of any human dignity,” Mr Arndt said.

“Our fundamental concern in relation to the refugee policies of both the Government and the Opposition is whether they prioritise the dignity of individual human beings who seek asylum,” he said.

“We are concerned to see that compassion and respect for human dignity underpin their policies and decisions,” he said.

“For us, these ‘strangers’ who come to our shores seeking protection must be treated in the same way as we would treat Jesus himself if he arrived in a boat,” he said.

“Jesus told us that we must welcome strangers and, when we do so, we are welcoming him,” he said.

“These asylum seekers challenge us to be signs of God’s love in the midst of much fear and mean-spirited attitudes,” he said.

“The Government’s decision, besides being heartless and inhuman, simply makes no sense,” he said.

“It is unbelievable that the Government needs time to assess what it says are changing circumstances in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan,” he said.

“It is the job of Foreign Affairs staff in Canberra and embassy staff in these countries to keep abreast of developments in those countries and to keep the Government informed,” he said.

“There should be no need for us to wait for three to six months to conduct an assessment which should be available to the Government and constantly updated as a matter of course,” he said.

“In fact, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Smith, made a statement to Parliament about conditions in Sri Lanka only a couple of weeks ago,” he said.

“We do not need to wait for months for a re-assessment when he has detailed a long list of human rights concerns in Sri Lanka which the Australian Government is monitoring,” he said.

“It is incredible that the Government thinks things have improved in Sri Lanka when there are on-going reports of human rights abuses including ones which suggest that journalists and newspaper editors were arrested or intimidated during this month’s Parliamentary elections,” he said.

“It is just as extraordinary to hear that the Government thinks things may be better in Afghanistan when fighting is still going on there,” he said.

“The Opposition’s policies are just as concerning because they want harsher, tougher and more inhuman treatment of asylum seekers,” he said.

“We, once again, urge Christians to adopt attitudes to asylum seekers which show the same love and generous compassion which Christ showed,” 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 when required.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Commission Urges Fairness and Compassion for Asylum Seekers


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.

 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 when required.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Asylum Seekers’ Plight Demands Action on Human Rights of Tamil Detainees

Monday 19 October 2009

Freedom for Detainees in Sri Lanka

Freedom for Detainees in Sri Lanka

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.

Sri Lanka Petition Handed Over

Prayer and Presentation of Tamil Petition October 8 2009

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 Charter 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.

Commission Urges Catholics to Prioritise Human Dignity in Refugee Debate

Monday 20 April 2009

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission urged Catholics to put a priority on the human dignity of those recently seeking asylum in Australia.

This follows the new debate about Australia’s refugee policy which has emerged since a boat carrying asylum seekers headed for Australia exploded causing death and serious injury to many on board.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the Commission is concerned by a range of comments which are critical of asylum seekers and which also seek a return to harsher refugee policies.

“The Commission is concerned that some Australians are already expressing very negative sentiments towards those seeking asylum in Australia,” Mr Arndt said.

“It is also worried by those who accuse the Federal Government of encouraging greater numbers of asylum seekers to come to Australia by ‘softening’ our refugee policy,” he said.

“The most important thing we must keep in mind in this current situation is that asylum seekers coming to Australia are human beings who are fleeing from dreadful situations,” he said.

“We cannot return to policies which clearly caused enormous harm to people who were already traumatized by their experiences in their homeland,” he said.

“Subjecting people to the psychological distress caused by indefinite detention in Australia, by letting them stay indefinitely on Nauru and by putting them on temporary protection visas is inhuman,” he said.

“If we believe that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, we cannot support actions which degrade and harm our fellow human beings,” he said.

“We ask Catholics to stand up for the human dignity of people seeking asylum,” he said.

“We cannot stand silent and allow cruel and inhuman treatment of those seeking refuge in Australia to be proposed again,” he said.

“We must all try to find out more about the horrible things that people are experiencing in places like Afghanistan and Sri Lanka and in refugee camps around the world so that we can understand why people are so desperate to come to places like Australia,” he said.

“As Christians, we must promote compassion and love, not cruelty and hate,” 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 Charter 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.

Commission Welcomes Demise of Pacific Solution

Media Release

Monday 10 December 2007

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has welcomed news that the new Federal Government is beginning the process of ending the former Coalition Government’s “Pacific Solution.

The “Pacific Solution” saw many asylum seekers arriving in Australian waters placed in centres on the Pacific island nation of Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

Under the administration of new Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, the Immigration Department has recognised a number of Burmese asylum seekers on Nauru as refugees and announced that they and a number of Sri Lankan refugees on the island should be settled in Australia soon.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the decision is a cause for celebration on International Human Rights Day, December 10.

Australia’s Bishops have consistently criticised the “Pacific Solution” as an abuse of the dignity of asylum seekers placed on Nauru and Manus Island,” Mr Arndt said.

“The Bishops called for an end to the ‘Pacific Solution’ in their Social Justice Sunday Statement in September this year,” he said.

“It is unacceptable that people who have fled persecution and violence should be placed in detention indefinitely and without adequate independent monitoring and support,” he said.

“This sort of treatment can have significant psychological effects on detainees and the Immigration Minister has acknowledged this when he referred to concerns about the mental health of the Burmese refugees who have been on Nauru for some time,” he said.

Mr Arndt said that there is still a need for more change if Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees is to be seen as fully respecting the human dignity and rights of people who flee to our shores.

“One of the clear challenges facing the new Government is to ensure that re-settlement support for refugees is adequate,” Mr Arndt said.

“We not only have a responsibility to take in people who are fleeing persecution, but we must also ensure that these people, who are often highly traumatised, are provided with the support they need to re-settle in a new and very different country,” he said.

“Our refugee policy needs to place less emphasis on protecting our own interests and to put more stress on showing compassion and respect to people who are in great need,” he said.

“As the Bishops said in their Social Justice Sunday Statement, Catholics can play their part by encouraging our elected representatives to be more inclusive, welcoming and compassionate in the policies they develop and implement,” he said.

“Many Catholic organisations, parishes and individuals have provided much support to asylum seekers and refugees in recent years and they will certainly be pleased to hear that more progress is being made in protecting the dignity of our neighbours in need,” he added.

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 Charter 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.


A discussion paper from the Social Justice Group at Graceville-Corinda Catholic Parish

The Catholic Church, at an international and at a local level, strongly supports the rights of migrants and refugees.  This is in accordance with the Gospel teaching “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34) and “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me”(Matt 25:40)  The Scriptures There are many scriptural references to refugees and people forced to move. The Exodus story of the people of Israel also is a story of a refugee people. The bible gives us the ancient custom of welcoming “When a stranger stays with you in your land, do him no wrong. He shall be to you as the native among you. Love him as yourself for you have been strangers in the land of Egypt.”  (Leviticus 19 33-34) 

The story of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt is a typical refugee story of escaping threatened persecution. (Matthew 2.13-14.)  In 1952, Pope Pius XII issued “Exsul Familia Nazarethana” an Apostolic constitution which he introduced in these terms

The émigré Holy Family of Nazareth, fleeing into Egypt, is the archetype of every refugee family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are………..  for all times and all places, the models and protectors of every migrant, alien and refugee of whatever kind who, whether compelled by fear of persecution or by want, is forced to leave his native land, his beloved parents and relatives, his close friends, and to seek a foreign soil…… In order that this example and these consoling thoughts would not grow dim but rather offer refugees and migrants a comfort in their trials, and foster Christian hope, the Church had to look after them with special care and unremitting aid.”

Catholic Social Teaching – Wars and other life-threatening situations have given birth to different types of refugees. Among these are persons persecuted because of race, religion, and membership in social or political groups. In the Catholic tradition there are many statements of Popes calling on people to support and help refugees.  Pope John XXIII referred to the plight of refugees in Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth – 1963) where he expressed the ‘bitter anguish of spirit’ he felt about refugees

: “There are countless thousands of such refugees at the present time, and many are the sufferings – the incredible sufferings – to which they are constantly exposed.”

 Pope John Paul 11, in an address at the Dheisheh Refugee Camp on 22 March 2000, said,

 The degrading conditions in which refugees often have to live; the continuation over long periods of situations that are barely tolerable in emergencies or for a brief time of transit; the fact that displaced persons are obliged to remain for years in settlement camps: these are the measure of the urgent need for a just solution to the underlying causes of the problem…… My appeal is for greater international solidarity and the political will to meet this challenge. I plead with all who are sincerely working for justice and peace not to lose heart. I appeal to political leaders to implement agreements already arrived at, and to go forward towards the peace for which all reasonable men and women yearn, to the justice to which they have an inalienable right.” 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church) notes : Human interdependence is increasing and gradually spreading throughout the world, the unity of the human family, embracing people who enjoy equal natural dignity, implies a universal common good. (1911)   This good calls for an organization of the community of nations able to “provide for the different needs of men; this will involve the sphere of social life to which belong questions of food, hygiene, education, . . . and certain situations arising here and there, as for example . . . alleviating the miseries of refugees dispersed throughout the world, and assisting migrants and their families.     John XXIII “Pacem in Terris

Again, every human being has the right to freedom of movement and of residence within the confines of their own country, but this right is sometimes denied.  When this happens, they must not be deprived of membership in the human family, nor of citizenship in the universal society, and “Pacem in Terris” makes this point quite clearly:

105. For this reason, it is not irrelevant to draw the attention of the world to the fact that these refugees are persons and all their rights as persons must be recognized. Refugees cannot lose these rights simply because they are deprived of citizenship of their own States. 106. And among man’s personal rights we must include his right to enter a country in which he hopes to be able to provide more fittingly for himself and his dependents. It is therefore the duty of State officials to accept such immigrants and—so far as the good of their own community, rightly understood, permits—to further the aims of those who may wish to become members of a new society.  

Australian Bishops’ Statements – Our own Australian Bishops have been vocal on the issue of refugees: 

The following quotes on the subject are excerpts from “A MESSAGE FROM THE AUSTRALIAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE MAY 2004

1.      The Australian Catholic Bishops wish to speak for refugees and asylum seekers and ask the Government and all Australians to respond with urgency to their needs. We plead the cause of refugees and asylum seekers again because the Gospel compels us to do so. We remain hopeful that hearts and minds will change so that the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia may be more humane, more respectful of human dignity. The nation’s response should be just, compassionate and consistent with our obligations under International Law and the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees and other Conventions to which Australia is a signatory.

2.      It is always unjustifiable to detain asylum seekers in order to deter future asylum seekers from coming to Australia. Prolonged detention is gravely injurious to those on whom it is inflicted: and the Catholic moral tradition has always insisted that it is morally wrong to use unacceptable means even for an arguably good end.   3.      In receiving asylum seekers, it is appropriate to hold people until they have satisfied questions about their identity, health and security issues. But unless evidence is presented in particular cases to support continuing detention, they should not be detained further. Certainly, detention should be non-discriminatory.  4.      At this time when few asylum seekers arrive by boat on our shores, Australia has the opportunity to implement a just and humane refugee policy. Australia has the chance to restore its reputation as an exemplary humanitarian country where refugees can rebuild their shattered lives and where, as a nation, we can sing without shame that “for those who come across the sea, we’ve boundless plains to share”.  

International Bishops  The  Australian Catholic Bishops are not alone in their pronouncements of what is a universally held church view.  For example:  

Great numbers of these foreign workers, both men and women, work in poor, substandard conditions without any protection whatever. They are not covered by health insurance nor are they eligible for other medical assistance. Thus, when their health is injured, they are not given even the opportunity of obtaining a cure. This is a grave and urgent situation which calls for legislation to give them access to National Health Insurance regardless of visa conditions or resident status and also to enable them to receive emergency medical assistance under the National Assistance Act. We are well aware that the problem is aggravated by the fact that majority of these workers belong in a so-called non-qualified category. Nevertheless, international rules concerning the equality of all mankind demand that, for humanitarian reasons, the government take immediate steps toward a fitting solution.  (Catholic Bishops’ Conference Japan petition to Japanese Government 1/121997)

 The New Testament often counsels that hospitality is a virtue necessary for all followers of Jesus. Many migrants, sensing rejection or indifference from Catholic communities, have sought solace outside the Church. They experience the sad fate of Jesus, recorded in St. John’s Gospel: “He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him” (Jn 1:11). The need to provide hospitality and create a sense of belonging pertains to the Church on every level, as Pope John Paul II said in his annual message on World Migration Day 1993: “The families of migrants . . . should be able to find a homeland everywhere in the Church.” (A Pastoral Letter Concerning Migration from the Catholic Bishops of Mexico and the United States  22/1/2003) 

Our own Archdiocese – The Archdiocese of Brisbane has three central foci, Jesus, Communion and Mission.  The above statement by the American Bishops which relates our treatment of refugees to our recognition of our communion with one another is therefore particularly relevant here in Brisbane.  It is in our parish community that we must practice what Jesus taught: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).  Our hospitality must also extend to include refugees.  As the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in its paper on “Refugees :A Challenge to Solidarity” notes   

The responsibility to offer refugees hospitality, solidarity and assistance lies first of all with the local Church.”(26) 

 We as a parish and as an archdiocese must face up to our responsibilities as directed by Catholic Social Justice teaching.  We are called on to live the demands of the Gospel and reach out without distinction towards refugees in their moment of need. Our task takes on various forms: personal contact; defence of the rights of individuals and groups; the denunciation of the injustices that are at the root of their plight, action for the adoption of laws that will guarantee their protection, education against xenophobia, the creation or support of groups of volunteers and of emergency funds and  pastoral care.  We should also be vociferous in opposing the current proposal to “commodify” and trade in, refugees between Australia and the USA.

What can we do? – There are opportunities to express our views to politicians through petitions and letters.  In the coming election campaign these opportunities will probably arise more often.  There are also opportunities to stand up for what is right and just in our discussions with our friends and colleagues.  Do we have the courage to accept this responsibility given to us by God and reiterated by our Popes and Bishops?

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