The Australian bishops have written to Prime Minister John Howard urging him to drop a bill currently before Parliament that would require all asylum seekers’ claims to be processed offshore, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.
Under the bill, all asylum seekers landing on the mainland will be sent to offshore detention centers in Nauru or Papua New Guinea's Manus Island to be processed. The bishops are concerned that these refugees would be detained for an unspecified period of time and would not have access to proper legal advice or the human support they need.
The bishops’ letter acknowledges the government's need to protect national security, but it also urges the government to consider the effects the legislation would have on genuine asylum seekers.
Bishop Joseph Grech said the letter urges the government not to sacrifice compassion for those who are in genuine need of help and asylum.
Debate on the bill will continue in the House of Representatives when Parliament resumes later this month.