Offshore detention and secrecy a continual source of shame
The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia has reiterated its opposition to mandatory detention and offshore processing of asylum seekers in light of today’s High Court ruling. ThisRefugee Week (June 15-21), Vinnies is also calling on the Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, to re-instate core funding to the Refugee Council of Australia (RCoA).
Chief Executive Dr John Falzon said despite the High Court ruling the Manus Island centre is constitutionally valid it does not mean the facility or system of offshore detention is morally valid.
“The short and long term effects of offshore immigration policies, both for people who are detained and for Australia’s standing in the international community, are disastrous. He said despite having allocated funds to the RCoA in the Federal Budget on May 13, 2014, the Minister made a disappointing decision to withdraw funding to the advocacy group two weeks later.
“We are deeply saddened that our nation continues to punish people by condemning them to offshore detention centres. Asylum seekers exercise a legitimate right in requesting refuge in our country. We have an international obligation to recognise their humanity and to assess their applications for refugee status with efficiency, and respect rather than cruelty and degradation, Dr Falzon said. “At the same time we have the Minister reducing funding to the RCoA in an effort to silence them too.”
“For 33 years RCoA has worked hard to be a strong and credible community voice for the humane treatment for people seeking asylum. They are also coordinating Refugee Week events in Australia and have the full support of numerous organisations and charities including ours,” Dr Falzon said.
National President of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Anthony Thornton, said the latest statistics from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection show over 800 children are still in detention. In total, there are over 4,000 people in Australian immigration detention facilities, plus over 2,000 in Nauru and PNG. In its recent submission to the national inquiry led by the Australian Human Rights Commission Inquiry, Vinnies called for the immediate release of children from immigration detention.
“What our experience has shown us, and is borne out by a weight of evidence, is that immigration detention is deeply harmful to asylum seekers, and particularly to children,” Mr Thornton said.
Refugee Week 2014 is being celebrated from Sunday, 15 June until Saturday 21 June. For more information about the week see www.refugeeweek.org.au or read Vinnies Refugee Policy in the Our Impact section of this website.