Church groups make migrant appeal

Australia – The Catholic Church and associated charities in the country have joined a major call to the government on behalf of asylum seekers.

Taking issue with the authorities’ use of the term ‘illegal maritime arrivals’, a raft of social justice groups, joined by the Archdiocese of Sydney, have co-signed an open letter in which Prime Minister Tony Abbott is reminded that seeking asylum is not a crime.

“You and members of your Cabinet are well aware that seeking asylum is not illegal under Australian or international law,” the letter points out. “Article 31 of the Refugee Convention makes it clear that contracting states, including Australia, must not impose penalties on people who arrive without authorisation to seek refugee protection.

“This Article recognises that very few of the world’s refugees get the opportunity to cross borders with prior permission and that rules which regulate normal migration flows must be suspended where those crossing the border believe they have a well-founded fear of persecution.”