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Reject fear-mongering, close Christmas Island detention: Churches urge Government

The Moderator of the Uniting Church in Western Australia, Rev Ken Williams, has urged the Australian community to reject the fear mongering surrounding the most recent arrivals of asylum seekers arriving in WA by boat.

“As a people who value fairness and justice, we must remember to share those values with those vulnerable people who come to our shores seeking our protection,” Mr Williams said.

Mr Williams, a long-term social justice advocate, praised the Rudd Government for its Inquiry into Immigration Detention and said it was an opportunity to develop a just and fair approach to asylum seekers who have fled persecution to reach our shores.

He also pointed to comments from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees earlier this week that “only a relatively small amount of asylum-seekers are arriving in the region” and the latest arrivals are unlikely to be part of a flood.

Rosemary Hudson Miller, Uniting Church Associate General Secretary (Mission), will today give evidence to the Immigration Inquiry on behalf of a group of eight WA advocacy and justice groups who have together worked with and supported thousands of asylum seekers, detainees, temporary protection visa holders and refugees.

In particular, Ms Hudson Miller will argue that the current policy of detaining asylum seekers on Christmas Island should be discontinued.

Ms Hudson Miller said that in both their written and verbal submission the group promoted a common sense approach to asylum seekers; in particular focused on ensuring that vulnerable people are given our protection.

“Detention of asylum seekers is not cost effective, does not assist in the determination process and does not assist asylum seekers to integrate into the Australian community, so therefore is damaging to Australia’s interests here and abroad,” said Ms Miller.

Ms Miller will tell the inquiry that, while the groups welcomed the changes announced in July this year, “we remain convince that mandatory detention is unhelpful at best and deeply damaging at worst.”

In their written submission, the group argued that, “In all cases, detention should be a last resort after due consideration of less restrictive measures.”

“Even though the current Government has said that children will no longer be detained, we know there is currently a child in Perth who, along with her parents, is detained,” said Ms Miller.

Mr Williams said the Church welcomed the opportunity to speak from their experience of offering legal, advocacy and other support to people affected by Australia’s unjust immigration policy of the last decade.