The president of the Uniting Church in Australia, Stuart McMillan, has welcomed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s recent announcement of a ‘one-off’ agreement with the United States to resettle refugees currently detained on Nauru and Manus Island.
While details of the arrangement remain vague, Stuart has welcomed the thrust of the announcement.
“The Uniting Church has long campaigned for an end to the inhumane detention of people on Nauru and Manus Island,” said Stuart.
“In that there is hope that people might soon be able to start rebuilding their lives, I welcome this as a positive development,” he said.
UnitingJustice Australia National Director Rev Elenie Poulos is calling for more details about the agreement.
“There are many unanswered questions,” said Elenie. “How many people will the US take? What will happen to refugees who miss out on a place? Are those people from Nauru currently in Australia for medical treatment included in the agreement?
“People who have suffered under the Government’s harsh and punitive policies, deserve to know as much as the Government knows. People on Nauru and Manus Island must be moved to safe places where they can start to recover and rebuild their lives.
“At the end of the day, however, this arrangement is a clear dereliction of Australia’s duty to shelter people who have fled their countries with good reason.”
Resettlement to the United States is hoped to begin early next year, although questions have already been raised as to whether incoming President Donald Trump would honour the deal.
Elenie also called comments by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton that the offshore processing centre on Nauru would continue in its current form forever ‘deeply regrettable’.
“The evidence is clear that the state-sanctioned abuse experienced by refugees and people seeking asylum on Nauru, including children, is a breach of Australia’s human rights obligations.
“The Government’s policies have undermined the global system of refugee protection and they demonstrate a chilling disregard for the value of every human life,” she said.