Christi Christian Peace Movement
National President: Father Claude Mostowik MSC
0411 450 953
July 6, 2012
The Hon Julia Gillard
Canberra ACT 2602
Dear Prime Minister
I am writing to you on behalf of Pax Christi Australia, which is a section of the international Christian movement for Pax Christi International. This letter is supported by the three branches of Pax Christi Australia, Pax Christi Australia (NSW), Pax Christi Queensland and Pax Christi Victoria.
Our members are deeply committed to peace and justice issues, and as some of us work on a daily basis with asylum seekers and refugees, we are committed to a humane, compassionate and welcoming attitude towards asylum seekers.
As we followed the recent parliamentary debates, we have shared the concern and pain felt by members of parliament for the plight of the asylum seekers. We understand that compromises need also to be made to save the lives of people taking dangerous journeys in their search for freedom and protection. But, we have looked for action from our political leaders as have many Australians who have been left angry and helpless. We have been concerned that the emphasis on the arguments has been about people smugglers and stopping boats rather than saving lives and providing services that obviate people from making genuine claims closer to the home countries.
Our membership is aware of the situation of many of the people who seek asylum, and we are distressed about the needless loss of life as people take huge risks in trying to seek asylum. We know that there are many compassionate Australians who feel the same as we do.
Pax Christi Australia (NSW) is aware that this is not an easy issue to deal with, but we call for:
o a change of attitude and focus that seeks to help rather than hinder people from making claims, that is, provision of resources at consulates and embassies close to their country of origin where the claims for asylum can be processed. In some countries this may not be possible, as in Afghanistan, but would be possible in neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and Iran.
o an immediate increase in the humanitarian intake as both of the major parties have already suggested
o onshore processing of people who have already arrived in Australia – as is their right.
o request the Minister for Foreign Affairs to have a conversation with the leaders of Malaysia and Indonesia that might lead to their countries signing the Refugee Convention and then also fulfill its requirements in practise.
Again, we recognise the difficulties in dealing with the plight of asylum seekers. A change of attitude and focus would at least present to the world that we are really are caring and compassionate nation; that we are a responsible neighbour in the Asia Pacific region; and that we take responsibility also for our contribution to the increase in people seeking asylum because of our military involvement in Iraq and ongoing involvement in Afghanistan
We look forward to your response to our suggestions and concerns.
Father Claude Mostowik msc jp
Hon Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition
Hon Chris Bowen, Minister for Immigration
Hon Scott Morrison, Opposition Spokesperson for Immigration
Senator Christine Milne, Leader of the Greens
Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Australian Greens spokesperson for Immigration and Citizenship,
Bishop Christopher Saunders, Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council,
Father Maurizio Pettená CS, National Director, Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office
Mr John Ferguson, Executive Officer, Australian Catholic Social Justice Council