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Australian bishops criticize proposal to transport asylum seekers to small islands

CWN - June 02, 2010

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference is criticizing a government proposal to reinstate the “Pacific solution,” a policy in effect from 2001-7 that transported asylum seekers away from the mainland to small island nations. Under the proposal, asylum seekers would “be able to work and have access to Medicare” and “be required to attend English language classes after a year” but would “not have family reunion rights,” according to a May 28 bishops’ conference statement.

“The requirement of asylum seekers to work for their benefits would need to be carefully considered and its motives made very transparent,” said Bishop Joseph Grech of Sandhurst. “Vulnerable and traumatized human beings cannot simply be used as deterrents to others seeking asylum in this country.”

“It has always been the view of the Catholic Church that human beings such as asylum seekers should be treated as human beings, not as political footballs,” he added. “This policy sounds as though it could be quite punitive toward asylum seekers who have left their countries of origin because of dire and dangerous situations.”

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