The National Council of Churches in Australia, Act for Peace and the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce stand together to bear witness to the suffering that Australia’s bipartisan refugee policy in regard to offshore processing, has caused.
They mourn the loss of justice for those refugees in Papua New Guinea (PNG) who are willing to put their own bodies in danger as the last cry of despair in the search for a safe future and pray for Australian Government leadership who may not have envisaged such suffering in re-enacting offshore processing, but who now cannot shy from the reality of the damage that has been done.
They are standing with the Manus Island and PNG people who are facing the presumption that they are not a safe and hospitable nation and cannot be trusted to host these vulnerable men and plead that if the men are to remain in PNG for now, that force is not used to relocate them and that the Australian Government contributes to securing their dignity and safety.
The ecumenical groups request that the Australian Government ensure the processing of re-settlement for these men occurs safely, swiftly and with the greatest regard to family unity.
Bishop Phillip Huggin, President of the National Council of Churches said, “It is difficult to understand how a nation like Australia has found itself in this situation. Other countries face far greater challenges with hosting refugees and struggling with unexpected arrivals. Australia’s current situation has put enormous, unnecessary ethical pressure on all involved and needs to be resolved peacefully and swiftly.”
Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce Chair, the Very Rev Dr Peter Catt, added, “We know that PNG has issues of concern for its own population and its nation. For the context on Manus Island we recognise this is not the fault of the refugees, the PNG locals or their Government. Australia wanted a quick fix to a situation which has turned into a protracted and harmful experience for many.”
Janet Cousens, Executive Director of Act for Peace said, “There are many lessons to learn from this situation that show us that even with the intention to save lives at sea or reduce human trafficking, that damage and suffering has still been caused to many people.”