The Uniting Church in Australia has written to Prime Minister Rudd and Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Sharman Stone to express concern and disappointment at the Government’s responses to asylum seekers arriving by boat.
President of the Uniting Church, Rev Alistair Macrae, expressed dismay that issues surrounding the movement of asylum seekers were once again being confused with issues of border security. “It is not a matter of national security that people come to Australia seeking protection as refugees. Everyone has a right under international law to seek asylum.”
Rather than feeding an unrealistic fear of ‘boat people’, Mr Macrae said “we have urged Mr Rudd to demonstrate leadership of a different kind – one that directs public discourse away from such baseless fears and towards our moral responsibility to care for vulnerable people who seek our help.
“While we acknowledge the importance of appropriate national security policies, we do not believe these should adversely affect the fulfilment of our international obligations to people in genuine need of our protection from persecution,” he said.
“As a stable and wealthy country in the region Australia has a responsibility to lead by example in providing protection to refugees. The numbers of asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat are very small indeed and need to be kept in perspective.”
The Uniting Church has urged the Government to focus efforts on developing a regional solution that protects the basic human rights and dignity of people fleeing persecution.
The Uniting Church has welcomed the Rudd Government’s commitments to upholding our international human rights obligations and developing more humane policies relating to asylum seekers and refugees.
“It is our hope that the Opposition will not advocate a return to old punitive and harmful policies and that the Government’s responses to the current issues around Sri Lankan asylum seekers in Indonesia in particular, will remain consistent with the commitments they have made,” said Mr Macrae.
Photo : Uniting Church President Alistair Macrae. Photo by Paddy Macrae and courtesy of Crosslight