Uniting Church welcomes asylum seekers into the community

Uniting Church welcomes asylum seekers into the community

The Uniting Church in Australia has welcomed the announcement that asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia will be granted bridging visas following initial identity, health and security checks, and will live in the community while their claims are assessed.

President of the Uniting Church, the Rev. Alistair Macrae said, “Today Australia has finally moved to shoulder its international responsibilities to asylum seekers who come by boat.

“The Uniting Church has long advocated for a more just and humane approach to assisting vulnerable men, women and children who exercise their legal right to seek asylum. Today’s announcement is one that we welcome with cautious optimism as a genuine response to ‘welcome the stranger’ and as a church we look forward to welcoming all asylum seekers into our communities.”

Mr Macrae said, “The announcement by Minister Bowen brings Australia into line with all other developed nations in this world by allowing people to live in the community while their claims for refugee protection are assessed. Finally we have a shift towards a more compassionate policy to assist those fleeing a life of persecution, torture, war and fear.”

National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, the Rev. Elenie Poulos said, “We are relieved that the Government will finally honour its international obligations under the Refugee Convention and Protocol by acknowledging the right of persecuted peoples to seek asylum here in Australia.

“We have consistently opposed the discriminatory manner in which immigration policies have been applied to those asylum seekers who made the perilous journey here by boat, and we welcome the news that this practice will be brought to an end.

“Our primary concern continues to be for the health and welfare of those who are currently languishing in immigration detention centres, particularly those in remote areas.

“We call on the Government to ensure the swift release of those currently in detention as soon as initial checks have been undertaken. It is also vitally important that asylum seekers in the community are appropriately supported while their claims are being assessed.”

Ms Poulos said, “We are pleased to learn that the bridging visas will include the right to work, and access to vital health services to allow those who have experienced extreme trauma to begin the healing process as they start their new lives in safety here in Australia.”

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