Josephites believe that Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten’s proposed turnback policy directly contradicts the values of compassion, generosity and fairness being claimed by its proponents.
The Sisters are deeply concerned about the proposed policy, which will increase the risks of asylum seekers being returned to dangerous situations, where they face the likelihood of torture or death.
‘It seems impossible that we have come to this,’ said Sr Monica Cavanagh, Congregational leader of the Sisters of St Joseph. ‘Research by the Edmund Rice Centre and others has shown clearly that turning back boats does not stop deaths; it simply pushes people back into imprisonment, torture, disappearance, starvation and death in someone else’s territory.’
The Josephites are concerned about the proposed policy on a number of levels. Fundamentally, this policy is unjust. It contravenes the principles of international law. It treats people fleeing for their lives as criminals. It is a paper-thin imitation of Government policy, which has already been criticised as morally bankrupt. It is a seductive incitement to the politics of fear and scapegoating. It appears to be driven by electoral pragmatism, and a belief that politics is about nothing more than winning and losing elections.
If this policy were adopted around the world, the global system of asylum would collapse and refugees would be left to face torture and death at the hands of their persecutors.
Josephites are aware that there is no one solution to the asylum seeker dilemma. They believe however that justice and compassion must underpin any decisions that are made. They urge the Labor Party:
• to refuse to engage in the politics of fear and moral rectitude under the pretence of concern for the safety of people at sea
• to dismiss opportunities to demonise asylum seekers
• to adopt policies which include receiving asylum seekers in a humane fashion and processing their applications quickly and efficiently
• to commit to ongoing work for a regional solution
• to offer humanitarian assistance in home countries, developing formal and safe pathways for people to exit danger
• to increase significantly the number of refugees accepted into Australia
• to increase foreign aid
‘We come to a critical moment in the life of our nation’, said Sr Monica, ‘a moment when we are faced with the stark choice between human life, human rights and compassion, and the questionable option for political expediency.’ We grieve for the peoples who will suffer enormously if political expediency wins out at this time. But we grieve also for the way that such a choice will undermine what is best in our nation’s values.
Contact: Jan Barnett rsj Josephite Justice Coordinator 0403 634 534