The Australian government is in effect conducting a campaign of cruelty towards asylum seekers, the Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, Bishop Christopher Saunders, said today.

‘The government’s campaign, like that of its predecessors, has only one purpose: to deter desperate men, women and children from seeking protection from persecution and danger’, Bishop Saunders said.

‘The government claims that it is fighting a war’, Bishop Saunders said. ‘If it is a war, then it is being fought against wretched and defenceless people.’

‘We are ignoring the most important issue: the millions of people in our region and around the world who need protection and security.

‘The only hope for a solution to the refugee problem is international cooperation’, Bishop Saunders said.

‘Australia’s policies are undermining and destroying that hope by angering the very nations we need to work with.

‘It seems that friendly relationships with our neighbours are becoming collateral damage in pursuit of an aggressive and callous policy’, Bishop Saunders continued.

‘Can we be surprised if Indonesia is offended when Australian naval ships stray into its waters, or when we ignore its protests and force boats to turn back to their sovereign territory?’

Bishop Saunders quoted recent words of Pope Francis, who said: ‘Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity’. The Pope called for us all to move away from ‘attitudes of defensiveness and fear’.

‘It is time for the Australian government to act in accordance with its responsibilities under the Refugee Convention and to exercise compassion towards those who come to our shores justly seeking a new life in peace’, Bishop Saunders said.

For further information:

Bishop Christopher Saunders Chairman, ACSJC    Tel: 0418 260 155

John Ferguson, David Brennan, ACSJC  Tel: 02 8306 3499