Decision to Re-open Curtin Condemned

19 April 2010

The Uniting Church in Australia has condemned the Australian Government's decision to house Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum seekers in the old Curtin detention centre.

Rev. Alistair Macrae, President of the Uniting Church said, "The decision to re-open Curtin detention facility is of grave concern. Detaining people indefinitely in the middle of the desert is inconsistent with a humane approach to the treatment of asylum seekers.

"Curtin is an entirely inappropriate and shameful place to be housing already vulnerable and traumatised people."

The Uniting Church has previously condemned the decision to suspend the processing of asylum seeker claims as a move back to mandatory indefinite detention – a breach of our international human rights obligations,

Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice said, "We are extremely concerned about the physical and mental health of asylum seekers who will be detained in the desert for an indefinite period of time waiting in limbo for the Government to decide to assess their protection claims.

"This is not the policy of a Government committed to upholding human dignity.

"We know from past experience that in such conditions asylum seekers suffer increased levels of mental and physical illness. That this Government would deliberately place already vulnerable people into a situation they know causes harm is an abrogation of their responsibility to treat all people with dignity and care.

"The facilities at Curtin were always rudimentary and unsuitable. It's hard to imagine that they can quickly be brought up to the standard necessary," said Rev. Poulos.

"The Uniting Church has always believed that how we treat the most vulnerable, regardless of where they're from and how they arrive, is a measure of whether we can truly claim that we're the land of the 'fair go'. It's clear that we can no longer make this claim.

"If we are to call ourselves a just and hospitable community we must demand more of our Government," said Rev. Macrae.