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Nauru abuse: Primate urges end to offshore detention, offers help

Dr Freier, churches' taskforce respond to 'Guardian Australia' revelations of abuse of children in offshore detention

August 10 2016The Anglican Primate of Australia, Melbourne's Archbishop Philip Freier, and the Australian Churches' Refugee Taskforce have condemned the treatment of asylum seekers detained on Nauru.

Dr Freier said the release of files from the asylum-seeker detention centre in Nauru, and published on The Guardian Australia website, were shocking and saddening.

"If true, they paint a picture of successive Australian governments abandoning vital moral principles and treating refugees with callous cruelty to send a message of deterrence," Archbishop Freier said. "It is always wrong to use people as a means to another end.

"The Anglican Church of Australia, which already has several programs helping refugees, has indicated before that it stands ready to help in any way it can. I repeat this offer today.

"We have also repeatedly asked the Government to end the cruel detention, especially of children, in these centres. It must act now in a morally responsible manner and move the asylum-seekers onshore."

The Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce said the Nauru files corroborated previous allegations submitted to the Government and the Moss Review as far back as 2014.

Ms Misha Coleman, Executive Director of the Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce, said: "These were allegations that were completely ignored. They were a horrific red flag to the scale of abuse and the Government did nothing.

"The Government knew. It then did nothing to prevent the ongoing daily acts of abuse committed on children and women especially.  

"The letters detailed a range of abuse cases including a rape and an alleged cover-up of that rape – it’s clear from the files released today that the situation has sunk to unholy depths."

At the time, the Taskforce Chair called for a Royal Commission into the systemic and gross abuse occurring every day in these camps funded by Australian taxpayers. 

Taskforce Chair, the Very Revd Dr Peter Catt, said: "We had called for a Royal Commission into the offshore camps after some of the key issues raised in the report were referred back to the Nauruan police, in which we have no confidence whatsoever.

"Today however, we’re calling on the Australian Government to immediately bring these innocent people from Nauru, here to Australia, and then to immediately establish a Royal Commission into these sorry offshore detention camps.

"In the same way that the Government reacted swiftly and correctly to the expose of the abuse at Don Dale Detention Centre, we call on the Government to react swiftly and bring people here to Australia, out of harm's way."

* Dr Freier's full statement may be read on the Primate's website at http://www.anglicanprimate.org.au/press/archbishop-condemns-maltreatment/