Uniting Church Supports Community Processing of Asylum Seekers

17 February 2012
Uniting Church Supports Community Processing of Asylum Seekers

The Uniting Church in Australia today expressed strong support for allowing asylum seekers to live in the community while their claims are being processed.

Uniting Church President, the Rev. Alistair Macrae said, "The evidence is clear that locking people in immigration detention damages them. It's contrary to all decency to continue to lock up children and vulnerable families for months and even years.

"We are appalled by the stories in today's Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun which give the mistaken impression that asylum seekers in community detention are living in luxury. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whatever their intention, these stories serve only to spread prejudice and misunderstanding.

"So much of the discussion around asylum seeker issues in Australia is unfair, untrue, unkind and helps nobody. We need to lift our game.

"Australia is a safe, secure and wealthy country. The Uniting Church is shocked to think that, as a nation, we would be unwilling to provide basic needs for people who have fled situations of persecution and applied for asylum seeker status as is their right under international law. The families who live in community detention cannot provide for themselves because they have no visa and no right to work. The Government has a fundamental duty of care to provide basic necessities to these families until their claims for refugee status are processed.

"There are currently 661 children in community detention. The alternative for these children is to be locked up in harsh, prison-like detention centres that have been proven to damage people's wellbeing.

"Community detention is the only humane option to ensure that these children and other vulnerable men and women are not further traumatised after seeking asylum here in Australia," said Rev. Macrae.

The National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, Rev. Elenie Poulos emphasised the importance of looking beyond today's stories, and encouraged people to examine the truth about asylum seekers in the community.

"Since when has it become such a terrible thing to extend such basic care to people in need? The Good Samaritan is one of the most well-known ancient stories our society has. Jesus told it to make the point that everyone is our neighbour, not just those we know, like and understand. Asylum seekers are our neighbours. If our society is going to be a good place for us to live, it will be because we are good neighbours to each other," said Rev. Poulos.

"Everyone, regardless of where they came from, is deserving of being treated with dignity and respect," said Rev. Poulos. "The Uniting Church in Australia is committed to ensuring that Government policies uphold the dignity of all Australians and all who come here. We have and will continue to express our concern for all groups of people in our country who live in situations of hardship and poverty."