Sydney (Agenzia Fides) - The refugee detention camp on Manus Island (Papua New Guinea territory) will be shut down, a building managed by the Australian Government, at the center of strong controversy for the inhumane treatment of migrants and illegal immigrants who want to reach the Australian coast, mostly from neighboring Asian countries. The decision, announced by the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O'Neill, and the Australian Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, has generated satisfaction in the Australian Catholic Church and in civil society, who several times in the past had criticized the living conditions on the island, a huge detention camp.
Fr. Maurizio Pettena, Director of the Office for migrants in the Australian Episcopal Conference, said in a note sent to Fides that "the Church welcomes the decision to close the center, where there are people in detention for over three years". "Many religious groups and Catholic communities in Australia are ready to offer assistance to those who are in refugee conditions. We urge the government to do everything possible to quickly find a settlement for these people. We are concerned because those who have been identified as real refugees may not find a country that will accept them. The Catholic Church is opposed to a detention camp for an indefinite period of time and policy responses that do not respect the dignity of those in need of help". "It is imperative that human dignity always comes first", he continues. "Governments have a responsibility to manage migration flows, but the current Australian government's approach is becoming morally repugnant and should change".
"In this Year of Mercy we must live a culture of encounter, hospitality and acceptance, at a personal and community level", writes Bishop Vincent Nguyen Van Long, OFM Conv , in a message for World Day of migrants and refugees, which is celebrated on August 28th. The Bishop, the Bishops' Conference delegate for the pastoral care of migrants and refugees, recalled the example of Pope Francis, who visited the Greek island of Lesbos in April and "brought with him 12 Syrian refugees, Muslims, whose homes were destroyed by the war". "On this day - he said - we are invited to open our hearts to the suffering of others", in the sign of "compassion, which literally means 'to suffer with' and is the hallmark of Christianity", to be rediscovered and "lived in the Jubilee Year of Mercy". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 26/08/2016)