The Uniting Church in Australia continues to be at the forefront of advocacy for the right of people seeking asylum on our shores.
In an opinion piece published on the ABC Religion and Ethics program UCA president Rev Professor Andrew Dutney commented on the latest attempt by the Federal Government to deter asylum seekers.
“Even if the so-called PNG Solution ‘worked’ and refugees fleeing for their lives stopped arriving by boat in Australian waters seeking asylum, the ‘solution’ is wrong,” Prof Dutney said. “It is wrong morally and spiritually. It is wrong because it requires us to mistreat and harm a group of marginalised, vulnerable, oppressed people who have arrived asking us for help.”
Meanwhile, Lentara UnitingCare is actively supporting the ‘Right to Work’ campaign, a call for all asylum seekers who are released into the community to access employment. The campaign calls on all concerned citizens to challenge the policy changes affecting asylum seekers arriving by boat.
The changes announced in November 2012 by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, place asylum seekers on bridging visas with no right to work and impose waiting periods of up to five years for processing.
“As a basic human right all people should have the right to work,” the statement reads.
“Australia’s current policy denies this right to many people seeking asylum in Australia. Employment gives meaning to people’s lives and connects them to communities.
“We want to change this policy and enable people seeking asylum to support themselves in our community.”
Internationally, a United Nations committee has found Australia guilty of almost 150 violations of international law.
The findings relate to the indefinite detention of 46 refugees in what a report in The Age described as “one of the most damning assessments of human rights in this country”.
The UN’s Human Rights Committee stated the indefinite detention of the asylum seekers was in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Rallies were held throughout Australia last month by those demanding an end to the punitive treatment of refugees. Moderator of the Vic/Tas synod, Dan Wootton, attended the Melbourne rally.
He said: “This is not a matter of ‘left’ versus ‘right’ politics. This is about how we best respond out of a humanitarian perspective, and how we find a compassionate way forward.”