17 December 2012


Catholic social justice groups have called on the Australian government to place human life, human rights and compassion ahead of political expediency, in response to recently enacted measures to discriminate further against people fleeing to Australia for refuge.

Chief Executive of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council Dr John Falzon condemned the government’s announcement that it would be leaving refugees on bridging visas with no right to work and very little support:“It is time for Australia to accept its international obligations and to respect the human rights and human dignity of the people who seek asylum in our country" he said.

Leaders of Religious Congregations have also raised their voices on this issue including the leader of the Josephites, Sr Anne Derwin, who asked: "When will the women and men of compassion and reason in our political parties be heard so that Australia's response to those seeking asylum will at last be humane?"

In a letter to the Australian Prime Minister, Sr Louise Cleary, Congregational Leader of the Brigidine Sisters wrote "We are appalled at the current level of cruelty that our Australian authorities are showing to asylum seekers, particularly those who arrive by boat. Indefinite detention and deliberate delays in processing claims for refugee status, are flagrant breaches of the UN Convention for Refugees to which Australia is a signatory, and can only damage Australia’s international standing as a humane and decent country."

The letter goes on to condemn the "extraordinarily punitive" decision to apply the “no advantage” test to boat arrivals’ claims being processed on the Australian mainland, and to "deplore the involuntary return of asylum seekers to Afghanistan and Sri Lanka".

The Christian Brothers Oceania Leadership Team has circulated the letter to all its members and asked them to consider acting in support of this group of disadvantaged people with little voice, by writing to their local Members of parliament, House and Senate, protesting at this state of affairs.

Politicians' Electoral Office addresses can be found here.


UN Photo/Mark Garten

“Climate change is the biggest human rights challenge of our time” says former Irish president and UN Human Rights High Commissioner Mary Robinson following the conclusion of the recent UN Climate Summit in Doha.

“It’s undermining livelihoods—rights to food and safe water and health and education. It’s having people displaced by climate, and that can bring conflict. We’re told that we are likely to have as many as 200 million climate-displaced people by 2050. That’s not very far away. Where will they go? What kind of conflict will that bring about?” she said.

Whilst the UN Secretary general Ban Ki-moon welcomed the outcome of the Doha Conference  for paving the way to a comprehensive, legally binding agreement by 2015 he believes that far more needs to be done and called on Governments, businesses, civil society and citizens, to accelerate action on the ground so that the global temperature rise can be limited to 2° C.

That the need for action has become even more urgent was underlined by new World Bank President Jim Yong Kim who pointed to “unequivocal” scientific evidence for man-made climate change to urge countries to do more. Commenting on the recently released World Bank report “Turn Down the Heat” which highlights the devastating impact of a world hotter by 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, a likely scenario under current policies, he described climate change as “the single biggest challenge to social justice today.

All nations will suffer the effects of a warmer world, but it is the world’s poorest countries that will be hit hardest by food shortages, rising sea levels, cyclones and drought, the report states. Recent research has also confirmed that predictions of global climate change made to a United Nations-organized panel more than 20 years ago have proved to be accurate or underestimated the rate and extent of climate change.

Among the myriad of extreme and record-breaking weather events to hit the planet in 2012 described in a report released at UN climate talks in Doha, an area of Arctic sea ice bigger than the United States melted this year. The World Meteorological Organization said the dramatic decline illustrates that climate change is happening “before our eyes.”


British Prime Minister, David Cameron has announced that both tax avoidance and transparency will be priority issues for action at next year’s G8 summit in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, which he will chair.

Whilst the announcement was welcomed by Christian Aid which has long campaigned for Tax Justice and to End Tax Haven Secrecy it is also urging the UK government to abandon its “shoddy” tax deal with Switzerland, after the upper house of the German Parliament struck down its own similar treaty with Switzerland.

According to Christian Aid spokesman Joseph Stead “To collect the taxes they are owed, poor countries need the Swiss to tell their tax authorities who has money in their banks. That will help them catch up with tax evaders, bribe-takers and others with money to hide.”

Christian Aid argued that Cameron's “dirty deal” with Switzerland preserves financial secrecy, harming the UK and the rest of the world.

Meanwhile Global Financial Integrity has issued its latest report "Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries 2001-2010" which draws attention to the issue of the proceeds of crime, corruption, and tax evasion–leaving the developing world whilst Transparency International  has published its 2012 Corruption Perceptions index which measures the perceived level of public sector corruption around the world. Denmark emerged as being perceived as the world's least corrupt country. Visit the Transparency International website to see where your country is ranked.


As the Sri Lankan Cricket team commences its three match Test series against Australia it is time for Australian consciences to be pricked and for Cricket Australia and the Australian government to consider a ban on future fixtures against Sri Lanka, according to former journalist turned refugee advocate, Trevor Grant.

The Sri Lankan cricket team is currently ranked sixth among Test playing nations and first in the T20 form of the game, and is an exciting team to watch in action. However it represents the rich and powerful in the Sri Lankan nation and an elected government that is alleged to be engaging in genocide against the poorest of its own people, many of whom are seeking refuge in Australia. The Sri Lankan President is part of this elite and a man who loves to align himself with sport, especially cricket.

A UN-commissioned report has recommended an investigation of the evidence that the government, and the Tamil Tigers, committed war crimes at the end of the war in 2009. Since then there are also credible reports that thousands of Tamils have "disappeared" after being picked up by government security forces. Many journalists have suffered similar treatment.

Meanwhile an open letter from Bishop Rayyapu Joseph of Sri Lanka regarding deportations of Sri Lankan people from Australia, records the terrible plight of deported asylum seekers who have found their way back in the North and East of Sri Lanka.

“It is common knowledge that those deported back after seeking political asylum abroad are left to live in fear and fright due to being considered as traitors by the Government and its armed Forces,” he pointed out.

“It is highly dangerous for the asylum seekers from the North and East of Sri Lanka in Australia to be sent back to Sri Lanka in the prevailing political situation in our regions.”

Bishop Joseph has had his life threatened by the Rajapaksa Government but continues to speak out.

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