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Media release: Let the community sponsor asylum seekers

A statement by Bishop Philip Huggins, Chair, Anglican Church of Australia Refugee and Asylum Seeker Working Group.

By Media release

December 1 2015Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were to reach Christmas with no children left in detention centres! How can we make this happen? Here is a proposal.

The very positive response to news of an extra 12,000 refugee places for people from Syria has been very heartening. 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.

In recent years the Federal Government has piloted, and now established, a community program* 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, support their visa application, and if successful, help them to settle in Australia.” Up to 500 places are available in addition to Government-sponsored refugee places. This has been a means of shifting some of the cost of settlement from Government to the wider community. Individuals and community groups have been very ready to bear this cost and thus give some individuals hope for a better future.

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.

We urge 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.

*http://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Refu/Offs/Community-proposal-pilot