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Media release: Nauru detention for children unacceptable: bishops

Statement by Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier and assistant bishops Philip Huggins, Genieve Blackwell and Paul White.

By Media release

February 4 2016Statement by Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier and assistant bishops Philip Huggins, Genieve Blackwell and Paul White on the High Court decision of February 3.

Melbourne’s Anglican bishops again urge the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, to change the narrative on children in detention despite the High Court decision yesterday that there is no legal impediment to returning more than 250 asylum seekers to Nauru.

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 Anglican Church in Melbourne — and nationally — 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.