Refugee policy ‘a cruelty that has no honour’: bishops

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Australia’s bishops have made an urgent plea for the Federal Government to overturn its policies on refugees, and for the Australian community to reject racist treatment of asylum seekers.

In a recent statement, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference renewed its call for the Australian Government to introduce a refugee policy which would respect human dignity and basic human rights. “The current policy has about it a cruelty that does no honour to our nation,” the 680-word statement said.

“How can this be when Australians are so generous in so many situations where human beings are in strife?”

The government’s current policy would only be accepted if asylum seekers are kept faceless and nameless, the bishops said in the statement. “Such a policy would be widely rejected if the faces and names were known. Bishops have seen the faces; we know the names; we have heard the stories.

“That is why we say now: enough of this institutionalised cruelty.”

They questioned whether current refugee strategy could be based on racist attitudes, and whether it effectively revived the ‘White Australia’ policy of the past.

“Would the policy be the same if the asylum seekers were fair-skinned Westerners rather than dark-skinned people, most of whom are of ‘other’ religious and cultural backgrounds?”