Our work is shaped by a commitment to Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Earth Charter, tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and the charism of Blessed Edmund Rice.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. The Declaration states -
That every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance"
UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees
The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees was approved in 1951 and defined who is a refugee and sets out how refugees (and people seeking asylum) should be treated. The Convention also includes the principle of non-refoulement - the principle that a country cannot send a refugee back to a country where his or her life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The Declaration was adopted by the UN in 2007, despite opposition from a small number of countries, including Australia. The Declaration sets out the rights of indigenous peoples, such as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health and education. It also "emphasises the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions, and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations". It "prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples", and it "promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development". Australia endorsed the Declaration in 2009.
The Earth Charter
The Charter recognises that humanity and the Earth are interdependent - we have a responsibility to to achieve sustainable development and sustainable ways of living. The mission of the Earth Charter is to promote the transition to sustainable ways of living that includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy and a culture of peace.
Catholic Social Teaching
'The permanent principles of the Church's social doctrine . . . are: the dignity of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity. These principles, the expression of the whole truth about the human person known by reason and faith, are born of "the encounter of the Gospel message and of its demands summarised in the supreme commandment of love of God and neighbour in justice with the problems emanating from the life of society".'
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church par.160
Charism of Blessed Edmund Rice - Presence. Compassion. Liberation
Presence: We are present among and stand in solidarity with those who are victims of any form of disadvantage, marginalisation and exclusion. In their presence, we build relationships based on mutual respect, trust and accountability.
Compassion: We respond with compassion, which refuses to accept global poverty and suffering and which awakens us to our responsibilities and compels us to take action.
Liberation. Compassion by definition demands action to address injustice. Justice is the social manifestation of compassion. A strong commitment to justice as the foundation for a peaceful world
Edmund Rice showed people that life could be lived differently, that human relationships could be different, that the dominant culture need not have the answers to how a society operated.
Philip Pinto cfc, Former Congregation Leader, 2006
What's the problem?
A fair refugee status determination system is critical to making sure Australia does not return asylum seekers to places where they are at risk of persecution. But many asylum seekers face complex legal and bureaucratic processes. They often cannot afford to pay migration agents or lawyers to assist them and access to the Government's assistance program has been all but removed. While there are a number of organisations that provide assistance, not all do so on a pro-bono basis and many are highly selective.
What are we doing about it
The Edmund Rice Centre is providing pro-bono legal and migration assistance to asylum seekers and refugees. This assistance goes through all levels of the legal system - from Tribunals to the High Court. We also provide asylum seekers with a mechanism to defend their rights before the United Nations.
We are currently assisting 300 people with their protection visa applications, as well as 1700 people who had their personal details published online by the Department of Immigration.
If you need assistance, or are aware of someone who does, please contact the Centre on (02) 8762 4200.