By ROBIN WILLIAMS
CATHOLIC religious organisations have hit out at the Federal Government’s decision to suspend the granting of new permanent protection visas for asylum seekers.
Edmund Rice Centre director Phil Glendenning said the freeze was “a new low” and “partisan politics at its worst”, while Josephite leader-elect Sr Monica Cavanagh (pictured) called the move “un-Australian”. Brisbane archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission executive officer Peter Arndt went further, calling the move “a mean-spirited and cruel stance”.
Mr Glendenning said by capping onshore protection visas at just 1650 places, the Government was condemning refugees who had already been found to be owed protection by Australia, to a life of fear and uncertainty on bridging visas.
“This policy announcement from the Government, in response to the defeat in the Senate of their attempt to reintroduce Temporary Protection Visa legislation, is a petty act,” he said. “Australians would rightly be ashamed of a Federal Government that is so willing to inflict cruelty and punishment on people fleeing persecution and torture, simply in order to teach their political opponents a lesson.”
Mr Arndt said people who we recognised as refugees would have been forced to live in a limbo of anxiety and uncertainty year after year if temporary protection visas were re-introduced.
“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. “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.
“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.”
Sr Cavanagh said she, along with her Josephite Sisters, believed the asylum seeker issue was being handled “very poorly” in Australia.
“I just think it is so un-Australian and certainly Mary MacKillop would not be pleased about it,” she said. “I know our Sisters are really struggling with it. I think it is such a big issue that we are handling very poorly and there seems to be a lot of determination around it from the political point of view.
“I feel that we’ve forgotten that these are human beings seeking life (for) themselves and while we have to think about processes and things like that just to shut the door forever I think is just un-Australian and un-Christian and totally against our desire for greater communion with every one.”
Mr Arndt has called on Catholics to challenge the Government’s “cruel measures”.
“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.”