Refugees deserve our compassion not a life sentence

stuart mcmillan at rallyThe President of the Uniting Church in Australia Mr Stuart McMillan has spoken out against the federal government’s proposed lifetime visa bans on certain people seeking asylum.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced legislation that will seek to prevent hundreds of people who arrived in Australia by boat seeking asylum after 19 July 2013 from ever re-entering Australia.

“This is unconscionably harsh treatment,” Mr McMillan said. “It is inhumane to continue to punish and further traumatise people for fleeing persecution in their home country.

“I hope Members and Senators of good conscience will show their humanity by voting against this legislation.

“Our parliamentarians need to come together to find a humane solution for the people on Nauru and Manus island. We are better than this as a nation, and people asking for our help deserve better from us.”

National Director of UnitingJustice, Rev Elenie Poulos, said the proposed policy was cruel and inexcusable.

“When our government treats innocent people like political footballs, it diminishes us all. It’s time that Australia recovered some of its dignity by ending the deliberate abuse of people seeking shelter from the storms of violence in the world,” Ms Poulos said.

The Uniting Church in Australia has repeatedly called for the offshore detention centres to be closed and for people brought here to Australia for processing and settlement, consistent with our obligations under international law.

Mr McMillan is one of 12 national church leaders who have recently taken the federal government to task for its slowness in meeting its commitment to bringing 12,000 refugees from the conflict in Iraq and Syria to Australia for resettlement.

The leaders including the Anglican Primate Archbishop Phillip Freier have pointed to Canada’s speedy response to the refugee crisis and have requested a face-to-face meeting with Mr Turnbull at his earliest convenience.

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