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Thursday, 21 August 2003

Uniting Church condemns imminent deportation of Iranians

Uniting Church leaders today expressed great concern at the imminent deportation of Iranian asylum seekers. The National President of the Uniting Church, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton said, “How can Australia, in good conscience, force people back to the Middle East when it is clearly not a safe place? Iran, itself is not safe.

“Last week the President of Iran admitted as much in saying that he had failed to institute democratic reforms. It is clear that the Iranian Government cannot guarantee their willingness or ability to offer effective protection to people in their country.”

The Age newspaper has reported that up to 14 Iranian refugees will be forcibly returned to Iran as early as next Saturday (24 August). The National Assembly of the Uniting Church , at its July meeting, condemned the Australian Government for its plans to forcibly deport people to Iran where their safety cannot be guaranteed.

The National Director of UnitingJustice, Rev. Elenie Poulos said, “The Government’s system of processing refugee claims has been shown to be flawed. We cannot be sure that refugees have not slipped through the net. Even if people’s claims do fall outside of the strict UN definition, they may still have a need for our protection for other reasons.” “ The Minister for Immigration has been unwilling to release the Memorandum of Understanding he signed with the Iranian Government. That forced deportations should be conducted in such secrecy is a serious indictment of the Government’s commitment to be open government. While Iran may have requested non-disclosure of the document, Australians expect more from our democratic system,” Rev. Poulos said.

“That the Australian Government would return people to a country so close to a war zone, and to a place where persecution and torture are a fact of life, is an abrogation of our responsibility as decent people not to endanger peoples’ lives,” Rev. Drayton said.

“The Uniting Church in Australia calls on the Federal Government to halt plans for forced deportations and make alternative arrangements for every Iranian currently held in immigration detention. We do not want the blood of innocent people on our hands.”

Media Contact: Kim Cain 0419 373 123; (02) 8267 4239