Synod seeks end to off-shore processing
The Uniting Church’s Synod of New South Wales and the ACT has expressed its grave concern at the Federal Government’s attempts to deal with people smuggling to Australia by overriding and disregarding the human rights obligations to which Australia committed itself.
On the final day of its 2011 meeting in Newcastle, the Synod joined the church’s Synod of Victoria and Tasmania in calling on the Government to abandon its attempts to send asylum seekers who arrive in Australia to other countries for processing.
It asked the Government to continue its efforts to end people smuggling, in cooperation with other governments in the region, through law enforcement efforts aimed at those controlling people smuggling operations, rather than through measures designed to punish desperate asylum seekers exploited by people smugglers.
It asked the Government to help deter asylum seekers from turning to people smugglers by increasing the humanitarian intake to Australia progressively to 20,000 by the 2013-14 financial year.
The Government was also asked to substantially increase health and mental health services for asylum seekers and refugees.
The Rev. John Jegasothy, who 25 years ago fled Sri Lanka with his children, said he knew the dilemma of parents who must seek refuge.
Mr Jegasothy has been visiting Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney for 16 years and is now permitted to work in the centre, where he said everyone was at the end of their tether, even to the extent of committing self harm.
He said it was time to stop mandatory detention and to start looking at those people as human beings.
The proposal also called the church to action by encouraging a campaign targeting MPs, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship and others.