Government urged to act on refugees

General Synod passes two motions relating to refugees

By Chris Shearer

September 15 2017The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia has unanimously passed two motions encouraging greater federal action on refugees.

The first motion asked the Government to resettle in Australia by Christmas any refugees and asylum seekers still detained on Manus Island and Nauru, while the second urged it to take another 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq, especially Christians and other minorities who have been persecuted by Islamic State.

Chair of inter-denominational group Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce and Dean of Brisbane, The Very Revd Dr Peter Catt, who spoke to the motions, said the government had “painted itself into a corner” on refugee policy and needed to enact a more compassionate response.

“Sadly, tragically, our government’s policy has nearly equalled the deterrence which drove [asylum seekers] from their homes. The stories of what is happening on Manus and Nauru are a national shame and it’s getting worse,” Dr Catt said.

“I’ve had the experience of sitting with whistle-blowers, with UNHCR representatives, and the stories are worse than anything you’ve read in the press.”

Dr Catt added that he hoped the Federal Government would partner with churches to assist with the “healing and resettling” of refugees affected by Australia’s offshore detention policy.

The Synod noted that many lives had been saved by the earlier allotment of 12,000 extra places for refugees from Syria and Iraq, but added an amendment calling on the Government to increase funding to “assist their integration into Australian society, and especially as regards their employment assistance”.