21 January 2011


The Director of the Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education, Phil Glendenning has expressed grave concerns about the recently signed agreement between the Australian and Afghan governments that will permit the deportation of Afghan asylum seekers from Australia and return them to the dangerous situations from which they have fled.

In an opinion editorial written for Melbourne’s “Age” newspaper, he warned that "many Afghan asylum-seekers have now been made vulnerable by this memorandum of understanding, including members of the persecuted Hazara ethnic minority and women who will be perceived as having departed from acceptable cultural norms"

Research carried out by the Edmund Rice Centre over the past eight years has found that some returnees from Australia and their children were killed upon their return and that many today live in fear. Mr Glendenning gave the examples of Tour Gul, who despite being given assurances of safety by the Australian government, was shot four times in the head by the Taliban and another returnee, Abdul Azmin Rajabi, who saw his nine and six-year-old daughters Yalda and Rowna killed as a consequence of his being targeted four months after being returned from detention in Nauru.

He also quoted the quarterly report on Afghanistan released last month by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon which noted an increase in the number of security incidents of 66 per cent compared to the same period in 2009 and that 2010 was the most violent in Afghanistan since 2001, with most victims of the increased violence being civilians, especially women and children.

In 2009-2010 over 99% of Afghan asylum seeker claims were judged to be genuine, which undermines the Australian government claim that circumstances in Afghanistan had improved to the extent that asylum seekers were no longer in need of protection.

Australia’s policy of returning asylum seekers who claims have been rejected was an issue raised in the submission of Edmund Rice International to the UN Human Rights Council as part of the Universal Periodic Review of Australia due to take place next week.


Parts of Australia are currently experiencing their worst floods in history. At the same time devastating floods have occurred in Brazil and Sri Lanka. These are just the latest in the series of weather events around the world that have been the most extreme since records began.

Not only was 2010 equal to the world’s hottest year on record it was also the wettest. Nine of the ten warmest years in history have now been recorded since 2000.

Arctic sea ice cover is now the third smallest since records began in 1979, trailing only 2007 and 2008. The ice cover is considered a marker of climate change as global warming tends to be seen first at the poles.

The melting ice is a contributing factor to the steadily rising sea levels that have been recorded over the past century and which threaten the very existence of low-lying island states such as Kiribati and Tuvalu, as well as massive disruption to agriculture, fresh water supplies and the creation of millions of climate refugees. Fifteen million people in Bangaladesh live within 1 metre of sea level for example when some predictions estimate sea levels will rise by up to 2 metres over the course of this century.

A recent Australian government report projects that low lying coastal areas including suburbs of Australian cities will be regularly inundated because of climate-change-driven sea-level rises, threatening billions of dollars in damage to homes and community infrastructure by the end of the century.

Despite an overwhelming scientific consensus about the reality of climate change and the urgent need to act, powerful vested interests continue to try and sow confusion in the public mind with the result that politicians who are primarily concerned about retaining power are reluctant to act.

For a summary of the compelling evidence of climate change, vist the NASA website.

To join the international campaign to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis visit the 350.org website.


Global Financial Integrity (GFI) has released its annual analysis of the cost of crime, corruption, and trade mispricing on developing countries today. The report, "Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2000-2009" finds that approximately $6.5 trillion ($6,500,000,000,000) was removed from the developing world in the period 2000 to 2008.

“Every year developing countries are losing ten times the amount of Official Development Assistance (ODA) remitted for poverty alleviation and economic development,” said GFI director Raymond Baker. The report can be accessed at the Global Financial Integrity (GFI) website.

An earlier report from the UK based Christian Aid explained how trade mispricing is used by multinational corporations to reduce or completely avoid their tax liabilities. With multinationals, a system called transfer pricing covers the sale of everything between subsidiaries of the same parent company which could include intangibles such as intellectual property rights, management services and insurance.

As long as the subsidiaries of the same multinational charge each other a fair market price such transactions are perfectly legitimate, however, with 60 per cent of world trade now taking place within, rather than between, multinational corporations, the way fees are determined has become increasingly opaque and the figures can be manipulated to reduce tax.

What makes this a matter of concern for all of us is the impact such tax dodging has on the global economy. Poor countries in particular are deprived of badly needed tax revenues – estimated by Christian Aid to be of the order of US$160 billion per year. Money which if directed to health services could save the lives of 350,000 children under the age of five every year.


As part of the campaign to urge governments to honour their commitments to the Millennium Development Goals students from St Johns Christian Brothers College in Chandigarh (themselves from marginalised and vulnerable families) joined with children from similar backgrounds to cycle 300km to New Delhi to ask the Indian government to fulfill its promise to allocate 9% of its GDP to education and health.

The rally was part of a wider ‘Nine is Mine’ campaign launched in India in 2006 which includes the collection of signatures of children from across India and an education campaign to let every child in India know that they are entitled to a share in the nations wealth, and that Health and Education are the basic rights of every child, and every family.

The idea of the cycle rally originated with students from St Johns CBC and grew to include other children from the slums of Chandigarh and its suburbs so that the participants themselves represent the voice of other vulnerable children on the margins of Indian society.

Each stage of the eight-day rally involved addressing school assemblies, performances of street theatre, distributing T-shirts and the collection of signatures for the petition. In some towns rallies were organised as the cyclists wound through the busy streets, raising awareness among people about the promises made by their government and the need to have them fulfilled.

Through Edmund Rice international students from Edmund Rice Schools around the world were encouraged demonstrated their solidarity and support for the cyclists with students from Cork to Nairobi and from Kimberley to Brisbane organizing their own events to raise awareness about the MDG’s.

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