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Tuesday, 08 August 2006

Detention on Nauru: A breach of human decency

Uniting Church leaders today condemned the Government’s plan to detain more asylum seekers on Nauru as inhumane, and urged Senators to vote against the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill 2006 currently before the Parliament.

In a letter sent to members of the Senate today, the Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, urged Senators to oppose the Bill on the grounds that it is counter to Australia’s international human rights obligations and ignores our responsibility to protect people in need.

“It is the sincerely held view of the Uniting Church that, were these changes to be passed, it would constitute an abrogation of our ethical and moral responsibilities to human rights and to the welfare of other human beings.

“This legislation an unreasonable attempt to exclude refugees who have suffered significant human rights abuses from seeking asylum as is their current entitlement under Australian law.

“There is also significant evidence that the amendments would put Australia in breach of our international human rights obligations,” Rev. Poulos stated in the letter.

Uniting Church President, the Rev. Gregor Henderson expressed deep concern over this new legislation which breaches standards of basic human decency and which will impact heavily on the welfare of asylum seekers.

“The changes do nothing to protect the health and dignity of asylum seekers,” Rev. Henderson said.

“This is a policy which will harm already traumatised people. Indefinite detention on Nauru has had a terrible impact on the physical and mental health of people in the past. Why would the Government seek to foster this destructive policy? Why would it once again be willing to sacrifice the well-being of children?

“Many dedicated Church members and groups are involved in providing support, aid and advocacy to asylum seekers detained in Australia. By detaining asylum seekers in Nauru, the Government is effectively removing this support network from extremely vulnerable people.”

Rev. Henderson urged the Senate to vote down the Bill.

“The Uniting Church in Australia will continue to advocate the just, compassionate treatment of asylum seekers and their families. Our primary concern will continue to be the health and welfare of asylum seekers.

“We pray and hope that the Government decides to abandon this terrible and inhumane policy.”


Rev. Henderson is available for interview on request