The St Vincent de Paul Society  Australian National Council has condemned both Government and Opposition this week for violating Australia’s human rights obligations and failing to make proper use of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Chief Executive, Dr John Falzon, said: “We reject the current false debate on asylum seekers. Offshore processing is not a response to a humanitarian crisis. It is a mean-spirited formula for avoiding our obligations as a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention.

“We need to remove the stigma for people seeking asylum in Australia. We need to embrace and improve onshore processing minus the cruel and unnecessary practice of mandatory detention, especially for children. We also need to work more effectively with our regional neighbours whilst increasing our refugee intake.”

National President, Mr Anthony Thornton, added: “We gain nothing by playing games with the lives of those who are desperate for a place of safety and welcome.

“Australia accepts less than 0.1% of the world’s refugees. This is the big picture we should never lose sight of.”

Commenting on the passing of the Stronger Futures Legislation early this morning, Mr Thornton said: “We, along with churches, community groups and, most importantly, representatives of Australia’s First Peoples, have consistently opposed this legislation. It is built on an approach that comes from above rather than listening to and honouring the voices of the people it will affect.”

Dr Falzon added: “The Government and Opposition have together violated the rights of Australia’s First Peoples with the passing of this racist legislation. It is a sad day for our nation that we will not forget. It comes on the back of a sad week in which both the First Peoples and the people who have most recently tried to come to Australia have been treated with disrespect and a lack of humanity.

“We are committed to working with all Australians of good will to build a future that is free of such shameful policies.”


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