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Asylum seekers: Church leaders say secrecy creates a space for cruelty to play

Posted on: August 6, 2014 11:03 AM
Manus Island Regional Processing Facility
Related Categories: asylum, Australia

The leaders of ten of the largest Christian denominations in South Australia are calling for completely transparent asylum seeker processing fearing “secrecy is creating space for cruelty to play”.

In light of recent revelations at the third hearing of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention, South Australia’s Christian Church leaders want the government to allow independent access and oversight of all onshore and offshore detention centres.

“The truth is not a threat to anyone who is doing the right thing,” CRC Churches International Pastor Hans Voortman says.

“If detention centres are suitable environments for children, if people are getting adequate legal and medical support, if asylum seekers are being treated with the dignity and respect we’d expect for our own children – then the truth is no threat to this government.”

The Leaders of Christian Churches of South Australia committee, representing more than seven hundred and fifty thousand Christians across a wide spectrum of churches, are very concerned for both children and adults currently being held in detention centres in Australia and offshore.

“Reports of self-­‐harm, deteriorating mental health, inadequate education and the rapidly increasing average length of detention are distressing to all of us as compassionate Australians,” Moderator of the Uniting Church in South Australia, Dr Deidre Palmer, says.

“There is no need to punish children in the hope that others will not make the journey to Australia.”

The Christian Leaders are calling for a policy of full transparency, independent oversight and for the right of Australians to see what is being done in their name by their government.

“We are assured by our leaders that children and adults are safe and well in our detention centres, with access to adequate legal, medical and educational services. If this is the case, independent scrutiny should be welcome,” Bishop David Altus, from the Lutheran Church, says.

“Secrecy can sadly create a space for cruelty to play. Transparency and independent oversight would help prevent that. The SA public is currently demanding it in our own state and institutional care of children,” he says.

“Wherever transparency is absent, we can only assume there is something to hide,” he says.

“The vital importance of transparency and accountability is something the church has learned the hard way, especially when it comes to the care of children and the vulnerable,” Anglican Bishop Tim Harris says.

“Our government serves on behalf of the Australian people, and owes us no less transparency and accountability when it comes to our duty of care to children and the vulnerable seeking asylum.”

The Rev Mike Mills, from Baptist Churches of SA, adds “The Immigration Minister is insinuating that the observations of the medical professionals, detention centre staff and the Human Right Commissioner can’t be trusted, but he can be.”

“While we would like to trust the word of our leaders, the veil of secrecy makes that very hard.”

“The government needs to open the centres and the process to independent observation without

restriction or fear of reprisal.”

“Transparency is the only avenue to trust.”

About Leaders of Christian Churches SA

The Leaders of Christian Churches of South Australia is a network of denominational leaders covering a

wide spectrum of Christian faith in South Australia, representing more than seven hundred and fifty thousand people. Member denominations include Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Churches of Christ, Coptic Orthodox, CRC Churches International, Lutheran, Religious Society of Friends, Salvation Army and Uniting Church.