Three ecumenical groups in Australia are urging the federal Government to re-settle refugees formerly housed in the Manus Island refugee camp “safely, swiftly and with the greatest regard to family unity”. The Manus Island facility in Papua New Guinea was one of a number of off-shore detention centres used by the Australian government to process and keep refugees seeking asylum in Australia. The camp was finally closed last week as PNG authorities moved the remaining 328 men at the decommissioned centre to new camps. Australia has faced repeated international criticism for the conditions in its off-shore detention centres.
Last week, three groups: the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA), Act for Peace and the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce (ACRT) issued a statement saying that they stood together to bear witness to the suffering that Australia’s bipartisan refugee policy of offshore processing had caused.
“We mourn the loss of justice for those refugees in PNG who are willing to put their own bodies in danger as the last cry of despair in the search for a safe future,” they said. “We pray for Australian Government leadership who may not have envisaged such suffering in re-enacting offshore processing, but who now cannot shy from the reality of the damage that has been done.
“We stand with the Manus Island and PNG people who are facing the presumption that they are not a safe and hospitable nation and cannot be trusted to host these vulnerable men.
“We plead that if the men are to remain in PNG for now, that force is not used to relocate them and that the Australian Government contributes to securing their dignity and safety.
“We request that the Australian Government ensure the processing of re-settlement for these men occurs safely, swiftly and with the greatest regard to family unity.”
Bishop Philip Huggins from the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, is president of the NCCA. Speaking to The Melbourne Anglican, he said: “It is difficult to understand how a nation like Australia has found itself in this situation. Other countries face far greater challenges with hosting refugees and struggling with unexpected arrivals. Australia’s current situation has put enormous, unnecessary ethical pressure on all involved and needs to be resolved peacefully and swiftly.”
- Click here to read a fuller report by Mark Brolly for The Melbourne Anglican.