Charities Join Church in Offering to House Child Asylum Seekers
22 August 2011 at 4:06 pm
Australian Not for Profit organisations have renewed their calls for child refugees to be allowed to stay in Australia as the High Court decides upon their fate.
Both Baptcare and Mission Australia have pledged their expert welfare services to help support Crossway Baptist church – whose members have offered to house and care for refugee children for free.
The full bench of the High Court is meeting to consider an injunction on the Gillard Government’s asylum seeker swap deal with Malaysia.
Under the Gillard Government’s controversial four year plan, 800 asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat will be sent to Malaysia in exchange for accepting 4000 UN-processed refugees
The challenge before the High Court has been brought by refugee lawyer David Manne on behalf of 42 asylum seekers due to be sent to Malaysia – 6 of whom are unaccompanied minors.
The High Court case argues that Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is constitutionally the legal guardian of underage asylum seekers, and must act in their interests.
Melbourne-based Crossway Baptist church has offered to accommodate and care for unaccompanied refugee children at no cost to Australian taxpayers.
Senior Paster at Crossway, Dale Stephenson says his church believes the broader Australian population is not supportive of the deportation of unaccompanied minors – a policy he describes as inhumane.
Both Baptcare and Mission Australia have pledged their support to the initiative – Baptcare has offered case management to the families prepared to support the unaccompanied minors as well as individualised support to every child in care.
Mission Australia has offered its experience as one of the country’s largest providers of homelessness and youth services to support the church with developing procedures to ensure the care of children is delivered at high standards and with cultural sensitivity.
Baptcare’s Chief Executive Jeff Davey says sending asylum seekers to Malaysia – a country that is not a signatory to the 1951 International Refugee Convention – is a shocking proposal.
Mission Australia’s Chief Executive Toby Hall says the government must stick to the principles it promised when it was first elected in 2007 – a humane and even-handed approach to refugees and community-led care of refugee children.
For the past three years Baptcare has provided supported community-based accommodation, social work and advocacy to male asylum seekers while they await the outcome of their visa application. The program provides a sustainable model of community-based accommodation for asylum seekers and a viable alternative to homelessness, detention centres or deportation.
However, Baptcare says that despite the model being internationally recognised and informing the US’s detention and housing program for asylum seekers, the Australian Government has declined to consider it as an option.
Davey says many asylum seekers have experienced trauma and torture, experiences that most people could never contemplate or understand. The asylum seekers they support have been forced to flee their homelands under threat of persecution because of their race, religion, political beliefs or ethnicity.