Seven Catholic representatives from Australia have visited asylum-seekers and refugees living in Papua New Guinea to express solidarity and gain a better understanding of the complexities of their situation. Source Catholic Outlook.
The group expressed the need for the Medevac provision as part of a bill that will be debated in federal Parliament over the coming days. The delegation called on the Morrison Government to accept an offer from New Zealand, or any other safe and secure country, to secure the future of these individuals.
Bishop Long, chair of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Commission for Social Justice – Mission and Service, said the Church in PNG has been active in supporting refugees and people seeking asylum, both on Manus Island and in Port Moresby, where the majority of individuals now reside.
“The Catholic Church in Australia and PNG have both previously called for a durable solution for those who have been taken by the Australian Government to PNG for processing. Our visit has affirmed the necessity and urgency of finding this solution for all cohorts,” Bishop Long said.
Carolina Gottardo, Co-convenor of the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA) and Director of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS Australia), said the situation around the Bomana Immigration Detention Centre, where asylum-seekers have been transferred from Manus Island, was highly alarming.
“We were told that many men indefinitely detained in Bomana were experiencing conditions equivalent to torture – including not getting basic food and losing weight, being unable to contact family members and having no access to medication, legal advice or visitors,” she says.
“These men need to be out of Bomana as a matter of urgency. They should be allowed to resume their lives, have access to safety, to appropriate healthcare and to complementary pathways.”
Josh Lourensz, National Coordinator of CAPSA, which is jointly convened by Jesuit Social Services and JRS Australia, said the visit was an opportunity to see the situation in PNG first-hand.
Fr Peter Smith, Promoter of Justice and Peace from the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, says the group urged the Government to take up New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees.
“We met with a number of men who have been determined as refugees but do not have secure futures – this could be resolved by Australia working with the NZ Government for a solution,” he says.