Rebuff to Church Offer for Child Asylum Seekers
Wednesday, 5th March 2014 at 10:24 am
The Federal Government has turned down an offer from the Uniting Church in Australia for sanctuary for children without parents held on Christmas Island and destined for a life on Nauru.
The Federal Government says there will be no exemptions for children without parents held on Christmas Island and scheduled for deportation to offshore facilities on Nauru despite an offer of sanctuary from the Uniting Church in Australia.
The Church says it made its offer of sanctuary to children without parents held on Christmas Island to the Federal Minister for Immigration and Border Protection’s office on Monday, March 3, after it was revealed that they have been scheduled for deportation to offshore facilities on Nauru.
However, a spokesperson for the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection said all persons currently on Christmas Island were subject to the Government’s policy for which there were no exemptions.
“Making such exemptions would only create dangerous incentives for people smugglers to put children onto boats and the most dangerous place for a child to be is on a boat journey to Australia,” the spokesperson said.
The Uniting Church said it remained willing and ready to accommodate and care for this particularly vulnerable group of child asylum seekers.
“We are well placed to offer these vulnerable young asylum seekers a place of sanctuary where we can ensure their wellbeing,” Reverend Professor Andrew Dutney said.
“Since the 1980s our Church has been directly involved in the protection and care of child asylum seekers without parents.
“Our extensive networks stand ready to take these young people into our custody where they will be given the support and care that they need and deserve.”
National Director of UnitingJustice Australia Reverend Elenie Poulos explained that Nauru was entirely unsuitable for all asylum seekers, especially children without parents.
“The Uniting Church will not stand by and watch as the lives of children are decimated by brutal government policies.”
“In October last year, the UNHCR visited the detention centre on Nauru and recommended its immediate closure. They explicitly highlighted the inadequacy of the facilities for all children – especially those without parents,” Poulos said.
“The recent tragedy on Manus Island has highlighted the complete inadequacy of these offshore centres for the safety and wellbeing of those seeking asylum.
The Minister spokesperson said the Minister would respond to the Uniting Church’s letter in due course.
“The Government would be pleased to engage with the Uniting Church and other community groups on how support can be provided to the more than 30,000 people on the Australian mainland who arrived illegally by boat and were not processed by the previous government,” the spokesperson said.