CATHOLIC students at Mount Alvernia College, Kedron, rallied in support of greater human rights of boat people when they marked National Refugee Week (June 14-24).
“It’s something very relevant to us as Australians because of our treatment of refugees held in detention centres,” college outreach captain Maya Ballantine said.
“If there is injustice in our country we have to acknowledge that.”
Maya said they deserved to be provided with the same conditions of shelter, food and safety enjoyed by most Australians.
Scores of girls joined her call to show their solidarity for the plight of boat people held in detention in offshore processing centres on Manus Island and Nauru.
As of March 31, the Refugee Council of Australia said there were 1312 people in detention facilities, including 106 women and four children.
There are thousands of people seeking asylum living in the Australian community.
Some have come to Australia by plane, and sought asylum afterwards. Some of them have come to Australia by boat.
Refugee Week is an annual activity to raise awareness about the issues affecting refugees, and a celebration of the positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society.
“Australia is very multicultural and it’s important we acknowledge them (refugees), welcome them, I guess, just as our national anthem says,” Maya, whose grandparents came to Australia from Malta, said.
Faithful called to help asylum seekers
Catholics should be signs of hope in the face of continuing harsh and cruel policies towards refugees and people seeking asylum, the chair of Brisbane archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission Maree Rose.
Ms Rose said the commission was particularly concerned about the removal of income and accommodation support to hundreds of people seeking asylum in south-east Queensland.
She also expressed concern about the plight of refugees held on Nauru and Manus Island for many years.
“As Christians, we need to resist this cruelty with every fibre of our being,” Ms Rose said.
“We need to stand against these harsh, dehumanising policies spiritually, mentally and physically.
“So many politicians are exploiting fear in our community and are scapegoating refugees and people seeking asylum.
“As Christians, let’s resist this fear-mongering with love and compassion for all in the same way as God does.
“Let’s not close in on ourselves but reach out in love, building relationships with people who come to our shores seeking peace and freedom.”
Concern for the asylum seekers held offshore has heightened after recent reports of increases in self-harm and distress, particularly on Manus Island.
The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce (ACRT) called for transparency for offshore refugee solutions.
“We have seen the intergenerational impact of trauma for refugees arriving in Australia from refugee camps around the world and for those in Nauru and on Manus Island there is no difference,” ACRT deputy chair Carmen Lazar said.
“Yet this situation is entirely preventable and now is the time for transparency on how this situation is going to be resolved,” she said.
ACRT said the situation was well beyond the capacity of a small community not familiar with extensive experiences of self-harm, psychological distress and trauma-related hospital admissions.