PERTH, Australia -- The same day that up to 50 asylum seekers drowned off the coast of Australia, the nation's Catholic bishops questioned the planned repatriation of more than 300 ethnic Hazara asylum seekers to Afghanistan.
The Australian newspaper reported Dec. 14 that the government was on the verge of signing a memorandum of understanding with the Afghanistan government to allow the repatriation of the Hazaras to their troubled home country.
Bishop Joseph Grech of Sandhurst, the Australian bishops' delegate for migration issues, said in a Dec. 15 statement it seemed premature to be discussing repatriation to Afghanistan, "which is widely considered to be extremely dangerous."
This is especially the case, he said, considering that, until September, there was a freeze on asylum claims from Afghanistan.
Scalabrinian Fr. Maurizio Pettena, director of the Australian bishops' Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, said there was not enough information to make a decision to repatriate so many.