Australia’s Catholic bishops have joined the bishops of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in calling for detainees on Manus Island and Nauru to be resettled in Australia – eight years after the advent of mandatory offshore detention.
Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv, chair of the Catholic Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service, has welcomed an open letter on 19 July from the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands to the Australian Parliament.
“Our brother bishops are right to point out that those who continue to be detained on Manus and Nauru, who cannot return to their place of origin and who have no path to resettlement elsewhere, should be resettled here in Australia,” he said.
“We understand that most of these people have already been recognised as refugees, while others are in complex situations – including those whose refugee status is still being determined.
“The indefinite detention of people, many of whom pose no threat or have not been convicted of serious crimes, is an affront to human dignity and a breach of international law.”
In 2013, the Australian Government passed legislation to enable the mandatory offshore detention of asylum-seekers arriving by boat.
“It has already been eight years. This is too long. I have seen with my own eyes the effects of the policy of protracted and inhumane detention on these individuals. A humane solution is needed,” Bishop Long said.
“This situation affects both Australia and Papua New Guinea, and the relationship between our countries.
“The Catholic Church in both countries is ready to work with governments to resolve it, for the sake of the people directly affected, and for all of us.”
In their 19 July letter to the Australian Parliament, the bishops of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands called for the closure of the Manus Island and Nauru “chapter” as soon as possible.
They said people there whose lives have been used to deter other people seeking asylum, “and whose acute suffering we see every day”, should be able to access “a reasonable and acceptable level of freedom and dignity in Australia”.
They urged Australia to “erase any trace of past colonial demand and fully implement a new style of compassionate and participative leadership in the Pacific”.
Co-ordinated response from Catholic social services in Victoria
A number of CSSV’s member organisations: The Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project, CatholicCare Victoria, Cabrini Health Australia via Cabrini Outreach Ltd, St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria, Jesuit Social Services, House of Welcome -Ballarat amongst others, with the support of many parishes, schools and others across the Catholic community here in Victoria, provide accommodation, medical and financial support, advocacy and assistance to many individuals seeking asylum and refugees who have been left in a state of insecurity by Government policy.
It is time to turn a new leaf in our policies, offering permanent safety, secure settlement options, a safety net for those who cannot work or find work, and ensure that our Refugee Status Determination processes are able to effectively and fairly come to the outcomes that will let people get on with their lives, respecting their inherent dignity at every step of the way.
What can we do, practically? Join 150 days of action campaign
To honour and acknowledge this special time in the year of St Joseph and his role as the Patron of Refugees, a coalition, led by the Sisters of St Joseph and the Justice and Peace Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, has come together to initiate 150 days of action across Australia, to engage with people of good will, and advocate to change our country’s attitude and policies towards those seeking protection in Australia.
The campaign was launched on 1 May 2021, the Feast of St Joseph the Worker and will conclude with a Day of Lamentation and Call on Sunday 26 September 2021, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.