The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan has condemned as ‘inflammatory’ and ‘deplorable’ comments made by Federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.
Peter Dutton has described the 7,500 asylum seekers living in Australia as ‘fake refugees’ and given them until 1 October to formally apply for protection or face deportation.
“The Minister is playing politics with people’s lives,” said Stuart.
“It is incredibly cruel and unfair to expect these vulnerable people to undergo this process in a limited time frame with limited access to legal assistance.”
“This arbitrary deadline will push already overwhelmed legal services to the limit, forcing many to apply without any legal representation or the support of an interpreter.”
“Claims could be wrongly assessed if asylum seekers are forced through the process quickly.”
Asylum seekers need to be invited to apply for protection by the Department of Immigration, with many only being invited late last year.
Applying for protection is an arduous process that involves submitting a 60-page document in English, which can take up to 10 hours to complete with legal assistance.
The waiting list for legal assistance in applying has grown to up to a year, which has made this process even more difficult.
The Uniting Church in Australia’s refugee policy Shelter from the Storm calls for asylum seeker protection claims to be processed in a fair and transparent manner.
“As Christians we are called to challenge unjust systems and care for those who are marginalised,” said Stuart.
“Asylum seekers should not be discriminated against based on how they arrived in Australia.”
“Mr Dutton needs to be more careful of his language too. Demeaning and demonising asylum seekers is not appropriate from a Government Minister, particularly the one who has direct responsibility for the welfare of all immigrants.”