The Federal Government's suspension of processing new asylum claims from Sri Lankans and Afghans runs contrary to the country's commitment to fairness and humanity, says the St Vincent de Paul Society and other Catholic groups.
The society's national council chief executive officer, Dr John Falzon, said its members were "deeply saddened to see both sides of politics trying to outdo each other in a tragic display of thinly veiled racism", The Catholic Leader reports.
Edmund Rice Centre (ERC) spokesperson Dr John Sweeney said the situations in both countries continued to be "very dangerous for specific groups of people", and that that Australia had already "done harm to asylum seekers in the past by convincing them it was safe to return when it was not".
The ERC and St Vincent de Paul Society were among several Catholic migrant advocacy groups to speak out on the Government's latest policy changes.
Brisbane archdiocese's Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) executive officer Peter Arndt said the "blanket suspension of processing claims from Sri Lankans and Afghanis does not treat people as human beings with personal stories and experiences but as bureaucratic categories devoid of any human dignity".
Dr Falzon said the Government's policy reversal on asylum seekers was "a far cry from the values of compassion and social justice espoused by this Government at the beginning of its term".
"We, along with all people of good-will in Australia, are angered at the spectacle of politics being played with people's lives," he said.
"In his excellent 2006 essay, 'Faith in Politics', (Prime Minister) Mr (Kevin) Rudd placed himself on 'the side of the marginalised, the vulnerable and the oppressed'.
"We call on him to revisit and rescind this policy decision on the strength of this conviction."
Turned away (The Catholic Leader)