Catholic Refugee Office 'wait and see' after Govt change of heart

( [email protected] ) Nov 08, 2003 08:34 AM EST

The Bishops' Migrant and Refugee Office has welcomed yesterday's news that the Federal Government will now grant a visa "on compassionate grounds" to an Iranian asylum seeker whose children are stranded in Indonesia.

Ebrahim Sammaki's children have been stranded in Indonesia since the death of their mother in the Bali bombing. Sammaki had been in Baxter immigration detention centre since arriving in Australia in 2001.

Former Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock was adament that the law should be followed and he would not be granted a visa. But new Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone intervened to give Mr Sammaki permanent residency, saying it was important for the rest of the world to know that Australia is a compassionate nation.

Her decision came after Prime Minister John Howard was photographed alongside Sarah, 4, and her brother Haries 8, after a memorial football match during the Bali bombing anniversary commemoration. Critics have suggested the visa was granted in order to relieve the Prime Minister's embarrassment.

But Director of the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office Fr John Murphy welcomed the move, saying the new minister should be taken at face value and commended for her compassion.

He told CathNews: "We look forward to the reunion of the children with their father and just accept it was a good thing."

He said he hopes the Minister will follow up this initiative with further acts of compassion.

"We only hope that it would happen in a lot more cases. We will wait and see."