Church responses to new asylum seeker policy

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Bruce Duncan

refugee protest jul13 resizedReligious and humanitarian groups have been especially critical of the harsh government policy on asylum seekers.

Speaking for the Australian Catholic Bishops, Bishop Gerard Hanna said it was “fundamentally untrue” that people had no right to seek asylum in Australia.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea on 21 July protested that PNG does not have the capacity “to welcome a sizeable influx of refugees and provide for their immediate needs.”

Bishop Philip Huggins, Chair of the Melbourne Anglican Social Responsibility Committee, urged humane treatment of asylum seekers and an end to punitive measures against them.

The President of the Uniting Church Assembly, Rev Prof Andrew Dutney, said denying refugees resettlement in Australia would have a devastating impact on already traumatised people fleeing persecution. The facilities on Manus Island are grossly inadequate. “It is burden-shifting at its most base.”

Catholics in Coalition for Justice and Peace said “Dumping thousands of displaced people on Papua New Guinea” placed unfair burdens on impoverished Nauru and PNG.

The Sisters of Mercy of Papua New Guinea felt “embarrassed and ashamed” of the “dangerous” decision of the PNG Prime Minister to accept refugees, since PNG itself faced huge issues of poverty and unemployment. Sister Berneice Loch, wrote: “Our Sisters continue vehemently to condemn such actions which increase the suffering and anguish of asylum seekers.”

Sr Annette Cunlife src, President of Catholic Religious Australia, the peak body for about 8,000 religious personnel, expressed shock at the new policies, and called for long-term solutions to protect asylum seekers and their rights.

Jesuit Refugee Service condemned “this cruel and inhumane policy” as “punitive, ill-considered and rushed”.

Photo St David's Uniting Church Oakleigh was there - Refugee Action protest 27 July 2013 Melbourne by Takver, flickr cc.


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