Uniting Church calls for a new era of care for those fleeing persecution
The Uniting Church in Australia has welcomed the announcement that the protection claims by asylum seekers will now be assessed onshore as an opportunity for the Government to re-commit to a policy that upholds our international obligations and sets a standard of care and compassion of which we can be proud.
President of the Uniting Church, the Rev. Alistair Macrae, said, “While it took a political stalemate to get us to this point, we now look forward to the Government fully implementing the commitments it made in 2008 to a just and humane asylum seeker policy.
“The Uniting Church believes that God calls on us to offer hospitality to strangers and extend compassion to the most vulnerable members of our society. For this reason the church has long opposed many aspects of current refugee and asylum seeker policy, including prolonged mandatory detention and offshore processing in any form.
“We hope and pray that yesterday’s announcement signals a new day. We now have an opportunity to demonstrate that we are a people of compassion.”
Mr Macrae said, “It is time to reverse policies that cause harm and end public conversations which diminish us all.”
National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, the Rev. Elenie Poulos said, “A return to onshore processing will bring us into line with every other developed country in the world.
“Properly administered, it will ensure that we meet our international obligations to assess the protection claims of those fleeing persecution. We are also hopeful that it will see an end to the long and indefinite detention of asylum seekers in conditions that are known to damage people’s wellbeing.
“Asylum seekers should only be detained for initial health, security and identity checks. All asylum seekers who are deemed to pose no risk should then be released into the community and appropriately supported while their claims are processed.
“We call on the Government to ensure that we do not see a return to overly restrictive bridging visas that force people into destitution. Bridging visas must contain conditions which allow asylum seekers access to work, healthcare and all other necessary and appropriate services so that they can begin the process of healing in safety and peace.”
Mr Macrae said, “We hope that the current situation will encourage both major parties to reassess their previous positions, bring an end to mandatory detention and encourage a more generous, compassionate and hospitable approach towards those who come seeking our protection.”