What has the Uniting Church said about Asylum Seekers and Refugees? 

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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 Human 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.

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