This historic UN General Assembly summit aims to establish a more humane and coordinated blueprint to address the large-scale movements of refugees and migrants.
An estimated 65 million people are displaced throughout the world due to conflict and persecution, the highest number since World War II.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will be joined by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton at the UN meeting. On the eve of the summit, Mr Turnbull claimed Australia’s border policies are “the best in the world” despite widespread condemnation from the United Nations and numerous human rights organisations.
UnitingJustice Australia national director Rev Elenie Poulos has written a letter to Ms Bishop, reiterating the Uniting Church’s stance on a more compassionate approach towards refugees.
“The Uniting Church has a long history advocating for the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum, and has repeatedly expressed concern about how Australia’s policies of deterrence and punishment fall short of our international obligations to provide protection to people fleeing persecution,” Ms Poulos wrote.
At the meeting, member states will seek agreement on an outcome document termed a Political Declaration. The document encourages a shared responsibility towards managing refugees and migrants “in a humane, compassionate and people-centred manner” and expresses a commitment to “facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people”.
Ms Poulos said it is essential the Australian government endorses this document.
“These principles are consistent with the humanitarian and rights-based responses the Uniting Church has been advocating,” she wrote.
“I hope the Australian delegates at this meeting will work constructively with other States’ parties to ensure the final outcome document is strongly worded in support of the rights of refugees.”
The document also highlights the rights of refugee children, stating that detention is “seldom” in the best interests of the child. Ms Poulos believes this wording should be amended to stress that detention is “never” in the best interests of the child.
“I encourage the government to support, and if necessary, propose, this amended language,” she wrote.
Image: UK Department for International Development/Flickr