Melbourne’s Anglican bishops have again urged the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, to change the narrative on children in detention despite the High Court decision that there is no legal impediment to returning more than 250 asylum seekers to Nauru. In a published statement The Bishops claim “The fact that a legal determination has been made does not require the Government to act to return women and children to off-shore detention. No reasonable Australian wants to encourage people smugglers in any way, but it is simply morally unacceptable to leave children to languish in appalling conditions in off-shore detention centres. If the nation can agree on these two principles, surely it is not beyond us to find a solution.”
The Bishops statement went on, “The Anglican Church in Melbourne will continue to support asylum seekers and refugees with services and advocacy and spiritual help. The Church and its welfare agencies have long had considerable involvement in resettling refugees and helping them build a life in Australia. We applaud the motives of those Christian churches who intend to test the ancient common law notion of sanctuary, but our churches are not equipped to provide temporary accommodation. A better answer would be for Mr Turnbull to exercise compassion and moral principle and allow the asylum seekers to remain in Australia as the processes unfold.
The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, says Anglicans along with other Christians in Sydney are concerned by the prospect of 91 asylum seeker children being returned to Nauru following the High Court ruling, a situation which he said ‘should concern every Australian’. Australia is currently detaining around 80 children, at Wickham Point, and about 70 children on Nauru. The High Court’s ruling means that dozens of asylum-seeker families, including babies born in Australia, could be deported to Nauru. Dr Davies says the Human Rights Commission Report (2014) and the contemporary testimony of paediatricians indicate that the overwhelming majority of children suffer considerable trauma during detention. “There is no safe level of exposure when it concerns children in detention” Dr Davies said.
Dr Davies said he was mindful of the difficult decisions that the Immigration Department, under various governments, has had to make. “It is my sincere hope that the Immigration Minister and his Department can find a way to keep these children in Australia” the Archbishop said. “The Anglican Church in the Diocese of Sydney stands ready to offer help and facilities in whatever way we can.”
Source: Press Release from Anglican Church in Australia
Published in the Australian Prayer Network, 10 February 2016