The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s social justice statement for 2015-2016 is titled For Those Who’ve Come Across the Seas, making reference to the second verse of the national anthem. It is a strong call for justice for refugees and asylum seekers.
The Bishops critique the policy responses of successive Australian governments to the relatively small numbers of people seeking asylum in Australia who arrive by boat. They also acknowledge the work being done by social service and community organisations to welcome asylum seekers and refugees while encouraging the community to do more.
The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council provides a range of associated resources that complement the Social Justice Statement including a powerpoint presentation, a prayer card, community action resource and an action leaflet.
Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen, Chair of the Council, himself arrived in Australia by boat seeking asylum as a teenager. At the launch of the Statement he said: “‘Australia, like every other nation, has the right to regulate migration flows and assess the status of people seeking protection within its borders. And, certainly, we should be working to stop people smuggling and preventing deaths at sea. But these concerns must not lead us to treat asylum seekers and refugees with cruelty, harshness and injustice.
Australia cannot claim the moral high ground and justify its policies by claiming they prevent deaths of asylum seekers at sea, when it offers no other way of giving protection and organising any avenue of safe arrival.”
He also welcomed the announcement that morning by the Australian Government that 12,000 more Syrian refugees would be accepted.