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Thursday, 13 March 2003

Uniting Church condemns Iran agreement

Uniting Church leaders today condemned the Federal Government for its agreement with the Iranian Government to accept the forced deportations of failed Iranian asylum seekers. The National President of the Uniting Church, the Reverend Professor James Haire said, “Recent High Court decisions have exposed serious flaws in Australia’s processing of claims for refugee status. As a consequence, our confidence in the Government’s approach has been eroded. We are extremely concerned that there are people who have failed the Government’s tests for refugee status, but who do indeed have a genuine fear for their safety. Even if people’s claims do fall outside of the UN definition of a refugee, they may still have a need for protection for other reasons.”

The National Director for Justice in the Uniting Church, the Rev. Elenie Poulos said, “Reports by the US State Department confirm serious human rights abuses in Iran including summary executions and torture.

It is clear that the Iranian Government cannot guarantee their willingness or ability to offer effective protection to people in their country.”

“That the Australian Government would return people to a country where such abuses are know to occur, is an abrogation of our responsibility as decent human beings not to endanger peoples’ lives,” Prof. Haire said.

“The Iranian refugees themselves have already pleaded to be sent to any other country which is a signatory of the UN Refugee Convention. The Uniting Church in Australia calls on the Federal Government to 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: Elenie Poulos, National Director, UnitingJustice Australia 0417 431 853