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Another national failure to welcome the stranger

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Rev Professor Andrew Dutney has deplored the move by the federal government to excise the Australian mainland from the migration zone.

The move means that no asylum seekers arriving in Australia will have the automatic right to remain in Australia while their claims for a humanitarian visa are being processed.

"Yet again Australians of compassion are ashamed at the lengths our government will take to avoid its obligations to some of the world's most vulnerable people," said Dr Dutney.

"Jesus called his followers to welcome the stranger and he commanded that we love our neighbour as we love ourselves."

"His command directs us and all people towards a life of peace and justice.

"I fear that this move is another example of the nation being led away from Christ's teachings.

"It is frustrating that in the week that we fully fund assistance to Australians living with disabilities, we also decide to flout the basic human rights and dignity of people who seek refuge in our wealthy country."

Responding to the 2013 Budget earlier this week, Dr Dutney said the national lack of compassion for asylum seekers is distorting our priorities.

"Additional funding for offshore processing in places like Nauru and Manus Island is more than 10 times the amount of funding allocated for onshore processing.

"With more than 90% of arrivals later found to be refugees, we are damaging people who are already vulnerable," said Dr Dutney.

"We are denying asylum seekers the ability to start their healing process and contribute to our society."

Rosemary Hudson Miller, acting national director of UnitingJustice, said that the move shows the government is neglecting their promise to enact more compassionate policies for asylum seekers.

"This is a sickening move in policy, showing that the moral compass of the government has lost its way," said Ms Hudson Miller.

"The enactment of this recommendation from the Houston Panel Report shows that the government has no regard for the safety or wellbeing of some of the world's most vulnerable people.

"The government has back flipped.

"They said in 2007 that this policy is a stain on Australia's national character and now they are the party supporting the legislation."

The Uniting Church is a long-standing supporter of onshore processing of asylum seekers with good case management, access to adequate services including healthcare and education.