Let them stay

The moderator of the Uniting Church WA, Rev Steve Francis has today written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull requesting that he act urgently to protect the children in immigration detention who are at risk of being deported to Nauru.

“The Uniting Church in Australia Synod of Western Australia has grave concerns for the safety of children in the care of the Immigration Department, following the High Court decision today 03/02/2016,” Steve said.

“We have a long standing concern that asylum seekers and refugees are treated with compassion and in accordance with international law, as can be seen by resolutions made by our Synod over many years.  We are aware that there are two families in WA who might be at risk of removal to Nauru as a result of this judgement.

“We note that The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has today issued a press release which “affirms that today’s High Court decision does not alter Australia’s international obligations towards people seeking asylum.”

The AHRC goes on to say that “The High Court has confirmed that third country processing is lawful under our domestic legislation, but it did not judge whether it complies with international law.”

“Australia has obligations under international human rights law to protect the safety and wellbeing of all people under our jurisdiction, including people seeking asylum. These responsibilities remain whether or not third country processing is authorised by Australian law.”

The Uniting Church WA is extremely distressed at the stories of harm coming to people –especially children –who have been sent to Nauru. It now asks to urgently protect the children in Australia  and thus not to send them to Nauru.

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Stuart McMillan, has also called on the Prime Minister to intervene directly in this issue.

“Mr Turnbull, I appeal to your sense of compassion. Please step in and make the moral decision to protect these vulnerable people,” said Stuart.

“Returning families and babies to Nauru and Manus may be legal, but it is not humane. To send people, especially children and Australian-born babies, back to the place that has caused them such harm would be an outrage against human dignity.”

National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, Rev Elenie Poulos, believes the Government’s response is a potential turning point in the Australian national identity.

“What the Government does now will define who we are in relation to refugee protection. Are we a nation that would send women and children who have been sexually abused back to the site of their abuse?” said Elenie.

“Are we a nation that sends babies born in this country to a deliberately harsh and damaging environment in another country just to make a political point?

“Our reputation as a country of fairness and decency is on the line right here and now.

“We are calling on Mr Turnbull to make a decision that reflects favourably on all of us. It is for the benefit of all Australians that as a nation we choose to protect and not harm all people under our care.”

In the words of Professor Triggs “Australia has obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to ensure that in all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration…We are also obliged to protect children from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Uniting Church members are encouraged to contact their local members of Parliament to let them know their feelings and to make their views known to Malcolm Turnbull and his Government by supporting the petition at http://getup.org.au/the267. 

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