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Religious criticise secrecy

Answers needed: A woman sets up pictures of refugees during a protest to support asylum seekers, in front of Parliament House in Canberra. Catholic Religious Australia has criticised the Government on issues relating to asylum seekers. Photo: AAP/Daniel Munoz

Answers needed: A woman sets up pictures of refugees during a protest to support asylum seekers, in front of Parliament House in Canberra. Catholic Religious Australia has criticised the Government on issues relating to asylum seekers. Photo: AAP/Daniel Munoz

THE Federal Government’s policy of secrecy on issues relating to asylum seekers has come under attack by Catholic Religious Australia leaders.

CRA president Sisters of Charity Sister Annette Cunliffe and CRA justice network co-ordinator Sr Suzette Clark said a “pattern of secrecy” had existed on the issue ever since the Federal Government took office.

“For example, briefings on the matter have long been cancelled,” Sr Clark said.

“We’re calling on the Government to stop this secrecy.”

Sr Cunliffe said she was pleased to learn about the Australian Human Rights Commission’s launch of a formal inquiry into children in immigration detention.

Sr Annette Cunliffe rsc

Sr Annette Cunliffe rsc

“Numbers of children in detention were reported to have dropped dramatically after the last inquiry about a decade ago,” she said.

“This was due to the publicising of the situation which forced the government of the time to do something about it.

“Hopefully the same will happen this time.”

Sr Cunliffe was also concerned about Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s recent announcement asylum seekers who had had their claims rejected and were in community detention or in detention centres had no right to be in Australia.

“Catholic Religious Australia and numerous other organisations and individuals are deeply concerned,” she said.

“These more than 1000 people will be detained and deported if they refuse to return home voluntarily.

“But many of these people have no home.

“They are displaced persons.

“And the number includes women and children.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission president Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs said last week a formal inquiry into children in immigration detention would be soon launched.

She said one of the main aims of the inquiry was to extract information from the Immigration Department.

“I think I’d have to say over the last few months, we’ve had minimal co-operation in relation to the kinds of details that I need to know, particularly mental health, self-harm and the processes for those that are transferred,” she said.

“In particular, we’d like to understand more about the mental health of these children.

“The instances of self-harm, how they’re being treated when they’re manifesting conditions of extreme anxiety.”

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the Government continued to co-operate with the commission and would assist any inquiry.

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