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Uniting Church calls for a revaluation of thinking on asylum seekers

Alistair Macrae President of the Uniting Church. Photo by Paddy Macrae
THE UNITING Church in Australia has welcomed the High Court decision that held invalid the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship’s declaration of Malaysia as a safe country for the transfer of asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia.

President of the Uniting Church, Rev. Alistair Macrae said, “The Uniting Church has been opposed to the arrangement with Malaysia which treated people like commodities.

We believe that God’s call on us to welcome strangers and care for those in need is one of the basic moral imperatives for building a decent society.

“The Uniting Church has long opposed many aspects of the current refugee and asylum seeker policy including the so-called ‘Malaysian solution’.

The desire of successive Australian Governments to shift our responsibility for what is a relatively small number of asylum seekers onto our neighbours is contrary to God’s call on us to treat all people with dignity.

“We hope this ruling will provide the catalyst for a new, humane and bipartisan approach to this complex issue,” he said.

“The Uniting Church asks the Government to immediately begin processing the claims of all those who have been held in limbo since the arrangement was signed on 25 July.

We should swiftly to ensure these people who have been caught in such difficult circumstances do not have to wait much longer,” said Rev. Macrae.

National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, the Rev. Elenie Poulos said, “The High Court’s decision reinforces our position which has always been that the Government must take seriously our international human rights commitments.

Short-term political fixes that take short-cuts around the rule of law are unacceptable.

“As the Uniting Church has stated many times, we believe that the policy of offshore processing must cease. We do not believe that Manus Island or Nauru are appropriate alternatives.

“We have been fully supportive of a truly regional solution, which would provide desperate asylum seekers a real alternative to engaging a people smuggler.

Such a genuine solution does not include Australia shifting our obligations on to other countries.

It’s time for a national conversation about a solution that has the best interests of vulnerable human beings at heart,” said Rev. Poulos.

Rev. Macrae said, “The church is concerned about the wellbeing of those who fall between the cracks opened up by a debate that has been shaped more by politics than compassion.

“Our commitment is to champion those whose voices have not been heard in a national debate that has been filled with rancour, aggression and fear.

We would like to see a conversation that is instead characterised by compassion and generosity and matches our ideals of a ‘fair go for all’.”

Photo : Alistair Macrae President of the Uniting Church. Photo by Paddy Macrae