The Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia has joined civil society and faith organisations calling for children seeking asylum in Australia to be removed from detention.
The #KidsOffNauru campaign is seeking to bring all 117 children that remain on Nauru to Australia by 20 November, which is Universal Children’s Day.
President Deidre Palmer said the Uniting Church has long called for the release of all children and their families from detention.
“The Uniting Church holds the firm belief that no child should be kept in detention and we join the call for these children and their families to be brought to Australia with a view of finding them a permanent home,” said Dr Palmer.
“We are especially concerned of growing reports of children living on Nauru facing life-threatening health issues.”
A 12-year-old boy flown was flown to Australia for urgent medical treatment after not eating for 20 days. Since then there have been more reports of children engaging in self-harm and refusal of food and medical treatment.
Health professionals have repeated calls for the children to be given urgent access to appropriate health care and warned of high levels of anxiety and depression for children on Nauru who have spent all or much of their life in detention.
Dr Palmer said: “We urge our new Prime Minister Scott Morrison to work across the political divide to find an enduring solution for these 117 children.”
In its 2015 statement on refugees and asylum seekers, Shelter from the Storm, the Uniting Church called on the government to:
“immediately release all children and their families from detention centres including Nauru, and allow them to live in the Australian community with appropriate access to funded legal advice, medical care, social services including financial support, and education while their claims are processed.”
Assembly Associate General Secretary Rob Floyd noted that while some have argued that children on Nauru are not in detention, they do not have the freedom to leave the island.
“Effectively, these children remain in detention. It is the Uniting Church position that all children should be free from harm and have the opportunity to flourish.”
“While recently many in government seem more interested in power and personality politics, our advocacy on this is more important than ever. I encourage you to call on your federal MP to respect the rights and dignity of all, especially children.”
Uniting Church members are encouraged to join the campaign here.
This article was first published on the Uniting Church Assembly website.