Category Archives: Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Refugee Visa Cap Cruel and Unacceptable

The decision by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison, to cap the issue of permanent protection visas for refugees to 1650 would increase the cruelty of the Government’s refugee policy according to the Executive Officer of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Brisbane, Peter Arndt.

Mr Arndt said that the measure, announced in the wake of the Senate vote to prevent the reintroduction of temporary protection visas, was unacceptable.

“People who we recognize as refugees because they faced persecution, torture and the threat of death would have been forced to live in a limbo of anxiety and uncertainty year after year if temporary protection visas were re-introduced,” Mr Arndt said.

“The Minister’s decision to cap permanent protection visas means that many people who have valid claims for protection will be subjected to the same uncertainty and anxiety by another means,” he said.

“Australia is in a position to be much more generous in resettling vulnerable people who deserve to live free from fear and violence,” he said.

“This is a mean-spirited and cruel stance from a country which is infinitely better off than the countries from which asylum seekers are fleeing,” he said.

“It is simply not fair to have thousands of people who have suffered so much in their homeland face years of further suffering here in Australia,” he said.

Mr Arndt called on Catholics to challenge the Federal Government’s cruel measures.

“Let us be signs of God’s lavish generosity and abundant mercy,” he said.

“Let’s demand just policies from a country which is so wealthy compared to the countries from which asylum seekers are fleeing,” he said.

“Let’s respond to Christ’s call for us to welcome the stranger,” he said.

“Let’s not pretend that we are doing the right thing by sending vulnerable people home to torture and harassment because there are other vulnerable people suffering in refugee camps elsewhere,” he said.

“Australia and the other wealthy nations of the world have a responsibility, in justice, to do much, much more for asylum seekers around the world, whether they are sitting in refugee camps for years or they risk dangerous journeys in boats to escape truly horrifying circumstances,” 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.

The Truth about Asylum Seekers


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.


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

Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support Resource Launched


Walking Together Information Guide: CSC1246 Walking Together Information Guide-5<a

A new resource to help people to find ways of supporting asylum seekers and refugees in the Brisbane area was officially launched by the Brisbane Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support (BRASS) Network on Friday at Justice Place, Woolloongabba.

The BRASS Network also celebrated its first birthday at the launch.

The BRASS Network was formed by the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission in partnership with representatives of the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane and the Uniting Church in Australia Queensland Synod.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the network works with a range of refugee support agencies to find volunteers to support asylum seekers in the local detention centre and those living in the community.

“BRASS has brought together churches, refugee support agencies, refugee communities and individuals who are committed to the dignity of refugees and asylum seekers,” Mr Arndt said.

“BRASS is providing us in the churches an excellent opportunity to find out where the needs and problems are for refugees and asylum seekers,” he said.

“We have sent out requests for volunteers and various forms of help via our electronic bulletin and in special letters to parishes throughout the year as a result of the connections we have made with agencies and with asylum seekers directly,” he added.

“Jesus’ call for us to love our neighbours and to welcome the stranger is motivating so many good people to reach out to refugees and asylum seekers in the Brisbane area,” he said.

“There are so many inspiring stories about what these good people have done,” he said.

“Christians in Australia have an immensely important responsibility to humanise the discussion about refugees and asylum seekers and getting to know them and help them is an important first step in carrying out that responsibility,” he said.

“Those of us on the Commission who have been involved in the BRASS Network feel very privileged that we have been able to learn the stories of so many asylum seekers and refugees and to support them in some way,” he said.

The new resource called “Walking Together” is available by emailing

Everyone who is interested in supporting refugees and asylum seekers is welcome to participate in BRASS Network monthly meetings.

“There is so much you will learn and so much in terms of support and advocacy in which you can get involved,” he said.

The next BRASS Network meeting will take place on Friday 19 April at 10 a.m. at Justice Place, 5 Abingdon Street, Woolloongabba. More information about the BRASS Network can be obtained by contacting Peter Arndt at the Commission’s office on 3336 9173 or by e-mailing