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Uniting in support of work rights for asylum seekers

Uniting Church justice staff from across Australia have today joined dozens of organisations and thousands of people in calling for work rights for asylum seekers living in the community.

Senior Uniting Church spokespeople said they are proud to support the Right to Work campaign.

"The right to work is a fundamental human right for all – especially the most vulnerable.

"The Uniting Church is committed to a society where everyone is supported to contribute to their own wellbeing and to their community, through meaningful employment," said Rev. Elenie Poulos, the National Director of UnitingJustice.

"The withholding of work rights for asylum seekers living in the community is just another form of punishment imposed on those who arrived after the No Advantage principle was introduced."

"This policy fosters destitution amongst a group of people who are already vulnerable – for no other reason than the fact that they have arrived here by boat," said Director of the Justice and International Mission Unit Dr Mark Zirnsak.

"Without the right to work, asylum seekers are forced to rely on already overstretched and under resourced NGOs.

"We are seeing the creation of not only a tiered system of welfare, but an entire underclass of people – something that we find unacceptable in modern-day Australia."

The Associate General Secretary for Justice and Mission in the Church's WA Synod Rosemary Hudson Miller also called for an end to the limbo and uncertainty that asylum seekers without work rights face.

"We know that we are damaging the health and wellbeing of these human beings – more than 90% of whom are found to be refugees."

"The long-term negative consequences of these policies on mental health, family bonds and the ability to successfully integrate into society are undeniable. In this pitiful race to the bottom we are persecuting those we should be protecting," said Ms Hudson Miller.

Rev. Poulos, Dr Zirnsak and Ms Hudson Miller made their remarks on behalf of justice staff from across the Uniting Church who are meeting in Sydney this week.

The Uniting Church is Australia's third largest church with a long history of advocating for human rights and social justice.

Further details of the Right to Work campaign can be found at http://righttowork.com.au