17 September 2012


In a statement to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on the human rights of migrants, the Holy See (Vatican) stated that “detention of migrants in any form, and especially indefinite detention, is a violation of a migrant’s basic human right to freedom and has no support in international law and should not be upheld by international norms”

Noting that “Migration is a natural response to internal disorder, fear of persecution or violence, and poor economic opportunity” the statement went on to note that “it is essential that migrants, due to their inherent human dignity as persons, receive fully the complete range of their human rights and freedoms. States must not degrade the dignity of the person through policy, practice or attitude whether through the criminalization of migration, the detention of irregular migrants or any other practice that divides families or victimizes migrants.”

Meanwhile in Australia the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis Hart, has joined other Australian Christian church leaders in condemnation of the Australian Government legislation to allow offshore processing and the indefinite detention of asylum seekers.

Under the Government's new "no advantage" asylum seeker policy not only will those arriving by boat on Australian shores be sent to re-opened isolated, remote detention centres on Nauru and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, but face the possibility of remaining there for decades.

The joint statement expresses grave concern at the return of offshore processing and the potential for asylum seekers to suffer adverse mental and health consequences as a result of the Government's amended legislation.

While acknowledging answers to "this complicated humanitarian challenge" was difficult, the Church leaders said that as such a rich and secure nation, Australia had a particular responsibility to ensure "we work positively with other nations to develop a range of a strategies grounded in compassion and that seek to honour the moral responsibility we have to victims of violence and persecution."


In a statement to the Human Rights Council on the occasion of the adoption of the UPR Report for the United Kingdom, Edmund Rice International again raised the plight of asylum seekers whose claims are rejected.

The statement acknowledged that so called Section 4 support, is in principle available to failed asylum seekers unable to return to their country of origin, but in practice the great majority are unable to meet the criteria to qualify for the benefit and do not have the means to resubmit their case. The result is that they remain in the UK in a state of homeless and penniless ‘limbo’. If charitable sources do not provide resources, survival choices appear to reduce to begging, stealing, or illegal work.

The statement, drafted in co-operation with the coalition of faith-based and community groups who drafted the original submission, urged the United Kingdom to implement the recommendations made in the UPR in relation to the human rights of asylum seekers, to grant temporary renewable protection and continuing accommodation, and financial support to all asylum-seekers whose application has been rejected and to provide free access to primary and secondary health care to all asylum-seekers until removal, voluntary return, or the granting of leave to remain.

Meanwhile the International Detention Coalition (of which ERI is a member) is organising a lunchtime event "Hear Our Voices" on the immigration detention of children as part of the Day of General Discussion for the Committee on the Rights of the Child which this year is focused on ‘The Rights of All Children in the Context of International Migration.’ It will take place in Geneva, on 28 September.


UN photo/ John Isaac
According to the NGO "Girls not Brides" an estimated 10 million girls under 18 are forced into marriage each year. While boys are sometimes subjected to early marriage, girls are disproportionately affected and form the vast majority of the victims of child marriage. In Dec 2011, the UN declared Oct 11th as the International Day of the Girl Child  and the theme chosen for the inaugural celebration of this day is ‘Ending Child Marriage’

The issue of servile or forced marriage was also raised in the recent report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Servile marriage was named as an issue that affected both adults and children and violated their right to health, education, non-discrimination and freedom from physical, psychological and sexual violence.

In the meantime the Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans group (ACRATH) has completed a very successful lobbying visit to the Australian National Capital in Canberra during which they raised a range of trafficking-related issues such as forced marriages, housing, immigration, Special Benefits allowances, access to quality English classes for trafficked people, slave-free supply chains, and Overseas Development Assistance. Details of the visit can be found in the ACRATH newsletter.

Whilst in New York, Edmund Rice International team member Kevin Cawley cfc continues to be active in the NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons which is currently examining ways to engage member states who have signed the Palermo Protocols regarding Human Trafficking and is also evaluating the success of addressing the issue at the London Olympics.


The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social Justice Statement for 2012–13 celebrates the role of families in our society and urges all Australians to consider the pressures and challenges that families face today.

The Statement’s title is "The Gift of Family in Difficult Times: The social and economic challenges facing families today". In it, the Bishops remind us that families, the basis of our community of faith and the very foundation of society, can be beacons for a more compassionate and just society.

The Statement celebrates the vital role of family in our society and examines the pressures that threaten its stability. Work demands, living costs and forces of consumerism are some aspects of our society that impact on families. As Christians we are called to be supportive of all families, especially those in crisis and greatest need.

For further details about the Social Justice Statement, visit the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council website.

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