Church Calls for Inquiry into Detention Horror

20 May 2003

The Four Corners report on the conditions at Woomera detention centre (19 May) has finally exposed the horrific consequences of the Federal Government's policy of mandatory detention.

Leaders of the Uniting Church in Australia believe that it is now time to act. A full judicial inquiry must be held. Two years ago, the national president of the Uniting Church, Rev. Prof. James Haire, called for an independent inquiry into Australia's detention centres. That need has now been fully exposed.

"The Federal Government, in line with its policy of deterrence, has succeeded in building one of the harshest detention regimes anywhere in the world," said Professor Haire.

"It is the cruellest irony that among those who have suffered so much in our detention centres were so many people fleeing regimes against which we have waged war. We said we were fighting for their liberation. We could have helped those few who came to us seeking freedom but we chose to add to their misery and compound their oppression."

The National Director of UnitingJustice, Rev. Elenie Poulos, said, "The evidence obtained by Four Corners shows that where these cruel regimes failed, the Australian Government has succeeded."

"It has succeeded in finally breaking the spirits of people who, until their arrival here, had managed to survive conditions we can't even imagine. It has succeeded in destroying all their hopes for better lives. And with complete contempt for people's human rights, it has succeeded in abusing people's dignity and destroying their mental and physical health."

"The responsibility for such shocking situations lies squarely with the Government." Professor Haire said: "The Uniting Church in Australia supports the call for a full judicial inquiry into the conditions and management of all immigration detention centres in Australia.

"There must be no room for cover-ups. It is time that all Australians knew the truth about the horrors that have been perpetrated in our name."