As concern over the treatment of asylum seekers in Australia grows - the Australian Catholic bishops have issued an official statement calling on the government to reassess the way they are handling the crisis. Their statement follows: The President of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Francis P Carroll, has called on the Australian Government to re-assess procedures dealing with the asylum seekers in the detention centres. He said that while we can sympathise with the Government in dealing with the problems of asylum seekers arriving in unpredictable numbers without following proper procedures, and the difficulties of processing applications, there is widespread unease in the Australian Community about the current horrific situation. "I urge the Government to respect the human dignity and rights of the asylum seekers, hear their cries for help, and to heed the disquiet of the Community', said Archbishop Carroll. "I also urge the Government to avail itself of the offers of practical assistance from the many groups that wish to assist in the care of the asylum seekers. The Catholic Community and its agencies are more than ready to work with Government and other bodies to bring relief and support". While destructive behaviour and inflicting harm on children are repugnant, said Archbishop Carroll, they must be recognised as the response of deeply traumatized people brought to a point of desperation. Children should not be in such centres in the first place and the causes of desperation much be addressed. Archbishop Carroll welcomed the Government's decision to resume the processing of applications for residence, but pointed out the need for the process to be streamlined and expedited. After the overthrow of the Taliban regime, the Afghan asylum seekers are in a special category. "Should not the Government consider giving them "safe haven" temporary visa arrangements similar to those extended to the East Timorese and Kosovars", asked the Archbishop. "The tragic plight of the asylum seekers, especially the women and children calls for an immediate and compassionate response", concluded Archbishop Carroll. source: Australian Bishops Conference
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