7 November 2016
I write to urge you to oppose legislation to impose a lifetime re-entry ban on people who arrived by boat seeking asylum in Australia.
The Uniting Church in Australia has been advocating for humane refugee policy in Australia for decades now and believes, simply, that the proposed legislation is immoral. It further punishes an already severely traumatised group of people who have only ever sought our care and protection. Penalising innocent people who have been found to be refugees or who are engaging their right to seek asylum is not the appropriate way to stop the people smuggling trade.
Rather than sending a message to people smugglers, punitive measures of this kind send a message to those people who have already borne the brunt of harsh and abusive policies, to the Australian people and to the rest of the world that we are not a compassionate country, and that we have little regard for the long-term consequences of separating families and punishing innocent people.
We are also concerned that this proposed legislation, which would prevent people seeking asylum who arrived by boat after 19 July 2013 from ever re-entering Australia, even on a tourist or business visa, could contravene Article 31 of the Refugee Convention, which states that “signatory nations shall not penalise refugees for illegal entry when they have come directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened”. It is also our responsibility to ensure that we do not return people to situations of harm.
You have the opportunity to vote against this legislation, and to show leadership in demonstrating the kind of country we are and can be.
Rev. Elenie Poulos.