Australia: SVP says government refugee policies are putting lives at risk


Christmas Island Detention Centre

Christmas Island Detention Centre

The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia says the country's political leaders are putting the safety of the most vulnerable people at risk by their support for punitive and degrading policies.

Recent changes to the Border Force Act have exacerbated the secrecy and uncertainty that surrounds mandatory detention of refugees and asylum seekers in on shore and off shore centres. And the decision by Labor last month to support turning back boat policies has revealed the callous politics and lack of compassion that lies at the heart of immigration policies.

Chief Executive, Dr John Falzon said: "These developments are deeply concerning to our members and supporters, many of who work directly with refugees and asylum seekers. It is time for Australia to abandon the politics of cruelty towards women, men and children seeking refuge. They have already suffered enough! People seeking asylum only want what all of us want: a place to live and feel safe; a place to work; a place to learn and a place to heal."

"Provisions in the Border Force Act to forbid detention centre workers from speaking publicly about abuses of human rights or face two years in jail are disgraceful and fly in the face of basic child protection standards. We also condemn all turning back the boat policies and reiterate our opposition to long term mandatory detention on the basis that both policies vilify the very people we should be trying to help under our international obligations," Dr Falzon said.

St Vincent de Paul Society National President, Graham West, called on the federal government to abide by child protection laws and to lead by example in having a zero tolerance policy towards child and human-rights abuse.

"To think that our Government has created one set of laws for children living free in our community, while eroding the rights of children held in detention facilities is unfathomable.

"We call on the Government to reverse these provisions in the Act and uphold Article 1 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights that states: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

Source: SVP Australia

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