REFUGEE & ASYLUM SEEKERS
As Christians called to love our neighbour, welcome the stranger, challenge unjust systems and offer refuge and care to those who are marginalised and in exile, we have a particular responsibility in our society when it comes to responding to issues related to asylum seekers and refugees.
The Uniting Church advocates for a just response to the needs of refugees that recognises Australia’s responsibilities as a wealthy global citizen, upholds the human rights and safety of all people, and is based on just and humane treatment, including non-discriminatory practices and accountable, transparent processes.
As at 10_02_2016, four Uniting Church WA congregations have offered sanctuary for asylum seekers and refugees who are now at risk of being deported back to the trauma-zone of Nauru following a recent High Court decision.
To find out why watch our National Director of UnitingJustice here
If you would like to register your church as a place of sanctuary email Geoff at Geoffrey.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Palm Sunday Walk for Justice For Refugees 2017
What happened at our Palm Sunday Walk for Justice 2017? Check the links below
The Uniting Church in Australia is a long-standing advocate of the just treatment of asylum seekers.
- oppose the Pacific solution
- oppose the involuntary return (deportation) of asylum seekers
- oppose privatised detention centres
- oppose the detention of children
- want all asylum seekers detained on Nauru and Manus Island brought to Australia
- want complementary humanitarian visas for all long-term detainees who are unable to return to their country
- want all people with temporary protection provided with permanent protection..
- oppose mandatory detention of asylum seekers
We seek to maintain an open, communicative relationship with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) to advocate for changes to immigration legislation and, on occasion, on behalf of individual refugees.
For resources, statements, submissions and other information about the Uniting Church’s work in this area go to the UnitingJustice Refugees and Asylum Seekers page.
What has the Uniting Church said about Asylum Seekers and Refugees?
February 12 2015
The Uniting Church in Australia is calling for the immediate release of all children and their families from Australian-run immigration detention centres, after the publication today of a shocking report by the Australian HumaThn Rights Commission (AHRC).
The damning report, The Forgotten Children, is the largest survey of children in detention ever conducted anywhere in the world. It details brutal and damaging treatment on Nauru and Christmas Island. In the 15 months to March 2014 there were 233 recorded assaults involving children and 33 incidents of reported sexual assault.
“Australia’s state-sanctioned abuse of children must end,” said Uniting Church President, Rev. Prof. Andrew Dutney. Read more here: http://www.unitingjustice.org.au/news/item/994-free-the-children-end-the-abuse
August 19, 2014:
MEDIA RELEASE: One Small Step Forward on Children in Detention
The Uniting Church in Australia has welcomed an announcement by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection that some children in detention will be released into the community, and asked for reassurances on the conditions of their care. “We hope that the increased support and protection announced today will be sufficient and ongoing,” said Uniting Church President Rev. Prof. Andrew Dutney.
“The Uniting Church has long been calling for the release of all children and their families and all unaccompanied children from all immigration detention centres. “While today’s news is another step in the process, there is much still to be done,” said Rev. Prof. Dutney. UnitingJustice Australia has requested more information from the Minister’s Office about the conditions of the new bridging visas being issued to the children and their families.
“Many asylum seeker families currently on bridging visas are destitute and relying on the generosity of individuals and organisations in the community,” said Rev. Elenie Poulos, the National Director of UnitingJustice Australia. “There is a large backlog in the processing of protection claims and so people end up on bridging visas for a very long time.“[The] announcement relates to children and their families who arrived before 19 July 2013.
“This group of asylum seekers was always going to be released. What about those children who are suffering on Nauru and Christmas Island? And what about children over the age of 10?” The Minister’s statement makes it clear that there is no change of Government policy for the remaining children, who Rev. Poulos says continue to be punished in order to send a message to people smugglers.
“A truly compassionate response would see all children and their families in Nauru and on Christmas Island brought back to the mainland immediately.
“No child belongs in detention. Ever.” said Rev. Poulos. (From UnitingJustice)
August 4, 2014:
MEDIA RELEASE: Uniting Church Condemns Escalating Abuse of Asylum Seekers in a Media Release
The Uniting Church in Australia has today strongly condemned the continuing and systematic abuse of asylum seekers trying to reach Australia by boat and those being held indefinitely in unsuitable offshore detention centres. The President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rev. Prof. Andrew Dutney said that the Government’s inhumane treatment of 157 Tamil asylum seekers had plumbed new depths of cruelty.
“The revelations about what happened to the Tamil asylum seekers while they were detained on a Customs vessel are truly shocking,” said Rev. Prof. Dutney. “Capturing people on the high seas, detaining them in harsh conditions and then threatening to set them to sea without experienced navigators or sailors, demonstrates a level of hysteria on the part of the Government that is extremely disturbing.
“In its single-minded efforts to ‘stop the boats’, this Government has lost its moral compass. What started badly enough as using asylum seekers for political point-scoring has degenerated into a callous disregard for the value of human life.”
The revelations about the 157 asylum seekers come as more horror stories emerge from the Australian Human Rights Commission Inquiry into Children in Detention. Rev. Elenie Poulos, the National Director of UnitingJustice Australia said such abuse of children in Australian Government care was inexcusable. Read the Full Media Release here.
August 4, 2014:
MEDIA RELEASE: WA churches and agencies offer to care for children in detention
The Acting Moderator, Rev Ken Williams joined with other church leaders this morning to offer care for families with children currently in immigration detention. Outside St Mary’s Cathedral Rev Williams stood in unison with The Anglican Archbishop of Perth, The Most Reverend Roger Herft, Salvation Army State Leader Major Wayne Pittaway and Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, SDB, Catholic Archbishop of Perth to make the announcement. On behalf of wide coalition of churches and agencies the four leaders offered an alternative to what they see as the damaging imprisonment of children. Read the Full Media Release here
July 14, 2014:
MEDIA RELEASE: High-level Roundtable on Asylum Policy
Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director, UnitingJustice Australia was one of the participants at a high-level roundtable at Parliament House, Canberra on 11 July to discuss the options for a more humane long-term framework for Australia’s refugee and asylum seeker policies, including the need to take account of the global context when thinking about Australian responses, a genuine regional plan focussed on protection not deterrence and work rights for asylum seekers in the community. Read the Document here.
January 30, 2014:
SUBMISSION: UnitingJustice has made a submission to the Inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Regaining Control Over Australia’s Protection Obligations) Bill 2014.
The proposed amendments, they seek to remove the legislatively enshrined system of complementary protection, and revert to an administrative system (as existed pre-2012). The Uniting Church has a long history of advocating for complementary protection, and we were disappointed to see an attempt to remove the additional protections offered to those who do not meet the refugee definition under the Refugee Convention but trigger our protection obligations under other treaties.
You can view and download the submission here
CARAD & CASE for Refugees
We work closely with the Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees (CARAD) who provide settlement services for refugees. CARAD’s services are needed because the government denies income support, the right to work, access to reasonably priced healthcare/pharmaceuticals, education and other basic settlement services to some asylum seekers.
We work closely with CASE for Refugees (Centre for Advocacy Support and Education for Refugees needs a link), a community legal service for refugees and asylum seekers. CASE for Refugees provides free legal and migration services as well as assisting people with refugee claims and family reunions.
CARAD is supported by the Uniting Church in the City (UCIC) congregations. UCIC provides free office space for CARAD in Trinity Refugee House, 245 Stirling St, Perth.
CASE for Refugees is located at the UnitingCare West offices in 16B Sunbury Road Victoria Park.
Members of the Uniting Church and other churches sit on the CARAD and CASE for Refugees boards.
Refugees in the community
The Uniting Church and Coalition for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees (CARAD) is concerned that with the government’s announcement of the “no advantage” policy – where recognised refugees could wait for years with no work rights amongst other injustices before being granted a protection visa, our community will have a new class of severely deprived people. The Refugee Council of Australia has said “Our member agencies, already under enormous strain to provide basic support and emergency care for asylum seekers and refugees on bridging visas, will be stretched to near breaking point.”
Work Rights for Asylum Seekers
“The right to work is a fundamental human right for all – especially the most vulnerable. The Uniting Church is committed to a society where everyone is supported to contribute to their own wellbeing and to their community, through meaningful employment,” said Rev. Elenie Poulos, the National Director of UnitingJustice.
From the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, this inspirational study guide, prepared by The Reverend Gillian Moses, is designed to assist parish and other groups to explore asylum-seeker and refugee related issues in depth and through focused engagement with relevant scriptures.
Each session of this study guide is designed to help groups engage with a critical issue concerning refugees and asylum seekers from a Christian perspective. Each session can stand alone and they need not be worked through sequentially.