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Australian Anglicans seek end to detention for child refugees

Posted on: December 4, 2015 11:51 AM
Drawing by a pre-school-age boy detained on Christmas Island in 2014
Photo Credit: Australian Human Rights Commission

[ACNS] The Anglican Church of Australia is calling for an end to children being kept in refugee detention centres by Christmas. In a statement, the chair of the Province’s Refugee and Asylum Seeker Working Group, Bishop Philip Huggins, urged Christians to “tap into the goodwill in our community, especially as Christmas approaches” by sponsoring child refugees.

“The very positive response to news of an extra 12,000 refugee places for people from Syria has been very heartening,” Bishop Huggins said. “It demonstrates the compassion and goodwill in our community for those suffering great adversity.

“Why not now invite the community to sponsor asylum seekers who have health and security clearances but no clarity about their future? There is no third country likely to receive them. Many of them cannot be returned home, and there are no spaces for them in the Government’s current refugee intake.”

Bishop Huggins said that the Australian government had established a community programme which “allows approved proposing organisations to propose someone in a humanitarian situation outside of Australia for a Refugee and Humanitarian (Class XB) visa. These organisations would usually work with supporting community organisations to identify people to propose [and] support their visa application, and if successful, help them to settle in Australia. . .”

“We know there are many thousands of asylum seekers both in Australia and in the detention centres and no clarity as to how this situation will change. Why not tap into the goodwill in our community, especially as Christmas approaches, by giving Australians an opportunity to sponsor asylum seekers who have health and security clearances?

“If children and their families were given priority for community sponsorship, this could soon mean that there would be no children left in detention centres. Everyone agrees locking up children like this is terrible. What we have lacked is a way out of the current impasse.”

The Australian authorities have come in for sustained criticism from the churches for its policy of detaining asylum seekers in off-shore detention camps. Bishop Huggins says that the Church is now urging “the Government to let the community express tangibly its desire to see children and their families freed from indefinite detention.

“If this proposal gained bi-partisan support, as has the community proposal program, then it can be communicated without sending any changed message to the criminals behind people trafficking.”