Catholic Bishops regret deal

National, Normal

The National, Thursday August 1st, 2013

 THE influential Catholic Bishops Conference has described the Refugee Resettlement Arrangement (RRA) between PNG and Australia as a “very unwise decision”.

Spokesman Fr Philip Gibbs said in a statement yesterday that they were surprised with the agreement by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd.

“Until more facts become available it is difficult for us to comment on all the social and moral implications of this decision,” he said. 

Gibbs said PNG, unlike Australia, did not have the capacity to welcome a sizeable influx of refugees and provide for their immediate needs and “a reasonable hope for a new and prosperous beginning”.

“The leaders of Papua New Guinea and Australia surely know this and therefore appear to be making a very unwise decision,” he said.

“PNG is rightly proud of the protection guaranteed by its Constitution to all people, citizen and non-citizen alike. 

“We refer particularly to the section on freedom and liberty of the person (section 42) in the PNG Constitution.” 

He urged other churches and people to join the Catholic Church in “respectfully encouraging Australia” to find a more humane solution to people seeking asylum in their country.

“Therefore no more asylum seekers should be sent to Papua New Guinea unless the facilities and conditions for hosting them are radically improved,” he said.