Catholic Church calls for reinstatement of immigration assistance scheme
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Wednesday 2 April 2014
THE Catholic Church in Australia is calling on the
Federal Government to reinstate funding for the Immigration Advice and
Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS).
The Government announced the decision to cut taxpayer
funding for the immigration assistance service on Monday 31 March.
“Despite a worldwide increase in the number of
applications for asylum, due to the ongoing and devastating Syrian humanitarian
crisis, the Government continues to show contempt for the basic human rights of
asylum seekers,” said Bishops’ Delegate for Migrants and Refugees, Bishop
The Government announced that asylum seekers, who arrive
in Australia by boat or air, would no longer have access to the Immigration
Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS).
“Whenever a person's life is threatened, it is just and
fair that they should be able to make a valid application for protection. The
Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme enabled asylum seekers to
do this,” Bishop Hanna said.
“The vital service enabled vulnerable, persecuted and
often traumatised people, who have limited or no English ability, to make an
application for a protection visa.”
The ACMRO believes the Australian government has failed
to uphold the human dignity of people seeking protection. Asylum seekers will
now only be entitled to free legal advice from organisations that choose to
provide immigration advice and application assistance on a pro-bono basis.
“Without independent, government funded legal advice,
asylum seekers will have little chance navigating Australia's complex refugee
process and will not be equipped to prepare highly complex applications, which
the Department of Immigration demands,” Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee
Office, National Director, Fr Maurizio Pettenà said.