Christmas Island Tragedy

16 December 2010

Uniting Church in Australia's President Rev. Alistair Macrae says yesterday's tragedy at Christmas Island is a graphic reminder of the desperate lack of hope that asylum seekers experience as they flee persecution.

He urges politicians to refrain from using the tragedy to score political points.

"Yesterday's event at Christmas Island is a shocking tragedy and we pray for those who have lost their life, for their families and for those who survived. We are grateful for the Christmas Island community and their heroic efforts to save people in such dangerous conditions. The devastating circumstances surrounding the deaths of so many people affect all who witness it and everyone who has a role to play in the aftermath, including government personnel and all those who are called on to provide care for survivors," said Rev. Macrae.

"Such human tragedy should move our politicians beyond the mere point-scoring politics we have become used to. It is now that we need our political leaders to step-up.

"We are looking to the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader to put party politics aside and work together in a manner appropriate for such matters of life and death.

"What has happened should only strengthen our resolve to see politicians engaged in a bipartisan commitment to work for a just and durable regional protection framework that will impact positively on the lives of people devastated by war and political unrest."

Rev. Macrae said, "Asylum seekers and refugees residing in Indonesia and other countries in our region live a life of destitution, with little prospect of resettlement in Australia or elsewhere for years, and sometimes decades.

"People will continue to turn to people smugglers and attempt the extremely dangerous journey by boat to Australia as long as they continue to live in limbo in Indonesia."

"The only way to prevent people from boarding a boat is to provide them with the hope and real prospect that they will soon be able to start a new life without fear or persecution – it is to this aim that all politicians should commit their joint efforts," he said.