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The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (ACMRO) and the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) today joined with other Church, civic and political leaders in calling for an independent inquiry into the management of Australia’s detention centres.

Bishop Joseph Grech, Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Migrants and Refugees, said, “Many Australians have now seen the conditions at Woomera detention centre and have heard from former staff.  They have some knowledge of the level of stress for the staff and the trauma among the detainees in detention centres.”
Chairman of the ACSJC, Bishop Christopher Saunders, said, “Allegations concerning the management of the Woomera detention centre illustrate the plight of asylum seekers in Australia.  It is clear that some basic human rights have been denied.”

Both Bishops questioned why a system of mandatory detention which is clearly not working continues to be official policy.

“The consequence of decisions and policies based on performance and outcomes rather than on the needs and rights of human beings is seen in the undermining of the human dignity of these people,” said Bishop Grech.

Bishop Saunders said, “Of course, Government is concerned with security issues and with the number of refugees coming into Australia.  However, the end never justifies the means.  Australia must care for asylum seekers with respect and dignity and the treatment of people in detention must always be based on these values.”

Both Bishops urged the Australian Government to evaluate the current practices with asylum seekers, noting that in fact, the whole system of processing asylum seekers needs to change.

“This could be the time to assess honestly the damage detention centres are causing individuals and families, and the practice of returning asylum seekers to their country of origin when that country may only offer these human beings further detention or torture or even death,” said Bishop Saunders.