The National Director of UnitingJustice, Rev. Elenie Poulos, has described the application of the Federal Government's No-Advantage Test outlined today by Immigration Minister Bowen as "a cruel policy of punishment".
"The policy outlined today is that confirmed refugees will not be issued with a permanent Protection visa until such a time that they would have been resettled in Australia had they undergone regional processing," said Rev. Poulos.
"Under the Minister's perverse application of the No-Advantage Test, refugees will remain on bridging visas indefinitely with no right to work and only basic accommodation assistance and limited financial support.
"This is nothing short of forced destitution. Similar policies under the Howard Government saw asylum seekers living in dire poverty with chronic health issues, sometimes lost in the system for years.
"Also, the suggestion that people awaiting processing in the community could be shipped off to Nauru or Manus at any moment is unspeakably cruel. The Government knows only too well the damage it will inflict on vulnerable people."
The Immigration Minister confirmed the new arrangements for asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia earlier today.
The Uniting Church is a long-standing supporter of onshore processing of asylum seekers with good case management and access to adequate services, including healthcare and education.
"Minister Bowen needs to explain to concerned Australians what will happen to vulnerable families with children and unaccompanied minors who find themselves caught in this limbo of the Government's own making," said Rev. Poulos.
"The Government continues to fail in its duty to protect child asylum seekers and refugees. How we claim to be a decent and civilised country when we are now knowingly sending children to the malaria-infested Manus Island?
"No lives are being saved through these inhumane policies. The boats will still come and people will end up more damaged than they were when they arrived."