Church Calls for Immediate Release of all Children

10 July 2004

The Uniting Church has again called for the immediate release of all children from Australia's detention centres, joining today's Sydney community protest.

UnitingJustice Australia National Director, Rev. Elenie Poulos, said she was outraged the Government has ignored the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Report into Children in Detention and its recommendation that all children be released from Australia's immigration detention centres by today.

"This is a Government which claims to be supportive of families and children yet its policies are destroying children's lives. There is absolutely no excuse for robbing children of their innocence.

"The HREOC report painted a terrible picture of life for children who are held in Australia's detention centres, but the Government has refused to acknowledge that the detention of children is wrong.

"The Minister, Amanda Vanstone, has said that releasing these children would send a message to people smugglers that we are a soft target if they bring children.

"It is horrendous to place children in an abusive situation to make a point to criminals. People smugglers don't care what happens to the vulnerable people they take advantage of," Rev. Poulos said.

Uniting Church President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton said he hoped today's protest would help to end the detention of children once and for all.

"The Uniting Church opposes the policy of arbitrary and indefinite detention of all asylum seekers, especially children.

"Any Government that would allow children to suffer physical and mental abuse in a detention centre is effectively sanctioning violence against them for its own political gain.

"This Government seems to think this is an issue about border protection and border integrity – the church believes it's an issue about humanitarian protection and Australia's moral integrity.

"We must immediately end the detention of children and their families and treat these people with the dignity and respect we would all expect for ourselves."