(21 August 2014) With thousands of Australians, Josephites around the world welcomed the announcement this week that children imprisoned in detention centres prior to July 2013 are to be released into the community. They express deep concern, however, this does not apply to all children. They are pleading with politicians to stop using deterrence as an excuse of inhumane and immoral law.
"How can we continue to do this," asked Josephite leader, Monica Cavanagh? "How can the Australian Government imprison one group of asylum seekers in dangerous and harsh situations in order that this hardship will deter others from claiming protection, and so from the risk of drowning?"
In the ongoing debates in Parliament and the media, the focus of the Australian Government is clearly on offshore processing and the deterrence of so-called people smugglers, rather than on the tragedy of people fleeing for their lives. It has become increasingly clear that politics, and not compassion for some of the world’s most vulnerable people, is setting the political and media agenda.
Events in Iraq and other countries have highlighted the desperation of people fleeing for their lives. Their plight, and that of so many others, has shown us once again that the asylum seeker question is not fundamentally about borders, security, media power, the next election or political trickery. It’s about human beings and the rights of people everywhere to seek safety and human dignity.
"For us as Josephites, this is the issue," said Sister Monica. "And at its heart we believe it is a simple one. It is simply ethically wrong to victimise the innocent, or to treat as criminals people who are fleeing for their lives. It is wrong, no matter how successful it may be, and it damages our deeply held values as a nation."
"Australians have always prided ourselves on our egalitarian attitudes, our belief in a fair go for all, and our concern for the underdog. The actions of our Government in its debate and legislation seem incomprehensible in the light of these fundamental values."
Tonight, a vigil will be held at Mary MacKillop Chapel in North Sydney to enable people to reflect together on the tragedy of asylum seekers in Australia and around the world.
"As we keep vigil, we grieve on two fronts," said Sr Monica. "We grieve for people who are suffering enormously because of the actions of our Government. But we mourn also the apparent undermining of what is best in our nation’s values."
Contact: Jan Barnett rsj Josephite Justice Coordinator 0403 634 534