The President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Stuart McMillan, has joined faith representatives and members of Parliament in Canberra today to support renewed efforts to restore some compassion to Australia’s asylum seeker policies.
At a cross-party forum at Parliament House Stuart described the continued abuse of asylum seekers in offshore detention centres as “inexcusable”.
“In increasing numbers, courageous citizens are expressing their concerns about the inhumane and illegal treatment of people seeking asylum, especially children.
“I applaud the actions of staff at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital in refusing to return children in detention to places where they are at risk of further abuse and trauma. Concerned citizens including many of deep religious faith continue to make their voices heard on this issue in public rallies and other peaceful protests.
“It’s vital that we harness growing goodwill in the community to improve the plight of these most vulnerable people.
“I congratulate MPs of principle and good faith who are not letting this matter rest in their party rooms or in public.
“The Uniting Church in Australia believes in the inherent dignity of all people. We believe that our commitment to Christ calls us to work for justice and to oppose all forms of discrimination.
“So we stand together with all people of decency, of faith or no faith, for the welfare and dignity of asylum seekers,” said Stuart.
Representatives of different faiths agreed to form a working group with five MPs to advance the case for reform.
In a media conference after the meeting, Stuart McMillan restated the Uniting Church’s longstanding call for the closure of Australian immigration detention facilities on Nauru and Manus Island.
Stuart also urged MPs and Senators to look closely at the Migration Amendment (Complementary Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2015 that was introduced to the Parliament today, and not to pass it.
“The stripping of another form of protection just makes it more likely that vulnerable people will be sent back to situations of abuse or worse,” he said.
Image: Stuart McMillan about to address the media at Parliament House on asylum seekers. Photo Shalailah Medhora Guardian Australia.