UCA Assembly President Stuart McMillan said the federal government’s decision to award $70 million in compensation to asylum seekers kept in offshore detention once again showed what a moral failure the policy has been.
Mr McMillan renewed the Church’s call to close the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru, bring asylum seekers to Australia to process their claims and increase the humanitarian refugee intake to 60,000, up from the current annual level of 13,500.
In the lead-up to Refugee Week next week, Mr McMillan urged Australia to show “moral leadership on the issue” and for UCA members to actively participate in sharing God’s love with all people and promoting justice.
In the Christian story of faith, it is often refugees who seek and experience God’s justice.
The Uniting Church in Australia has consistently advocated positive policy development on asylum seekers and refugees that would see Australia take moral leadership on the issue in our region.
We will continue to do so. There must be alternatives to public policy that seeks to punish people who have done no wrong.
Australian courts have time and time again recognised the harm caused by mandatory offshore detention on Manus Island and Nauru.
The fact that the federal government has agreed to pay $70 million in compensation to the 1,905 refugees and asylum seekers detained offshore for the physical and psychological harm they have endured proves what we already know.
We can and must do better.
As Christians we are called to live compassionate lives, to care for the most marginalised and vulnerable in our society.
In our Shelter from the Storm statement to the 14th Assembly meeting in 2015, the Uniting Church in Australia called on the federal government to close the camps on Manus Island and Nauru, and bring asylum seekers here.
Asylum seekers fleeing from persecution deserve to have their claims for refugee status processed fairly while they reside in Australia.
We continue to call for an increase in the humanitarian intake of refugees to 60,000.
We will also continue advocating for policies which are humane and which uphold people’s rights and their fundamental human dignity.
I encourage all UCA members to share God’s love with all people, to bring justice where there is injustice, peace where there is violence, and hope where there is none.
More information on the Uniting Church’s refugee policies is available on the UnitingJustice website http://www.unitingjustice.org.au/refugees-and-asylum-seekers .
A Refugee Week resource is available now: http://uca.org.au/justice/.