10 December 2022

Call for government to fulfil moral responsibility to refugees

By Chris Shearer

25 October 2021

ANGLICANS have called on the federal government to act with “justice, mercy and urgency” on two issues relating to its treatment of asylum seekers, with two motions passed by the annual synod.

The first motion asked the federal government to expand its intake of Afghan refugees from the current 3000 places to 20,000. It also called on the government to grant permanent visas to all Afghan refugees and asylum seekers currently in Australia on temporary protection or bridging visas.

It also called for the almost 80 Afghan asylum seekers current held in immigration detention in Australia or in offshore processing centres to be released and granted visas, and for the end of the policy of excluding from resettlement any Afghan refugees registered in Indonesia after 1 July 2014.

Presenting the motion to synod Doctor Audrey Statham, St Mary’s Anglican Church, said the federal government had taken some critical steps to respond to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan, but more needed to be done to fulfil Australia’s ethical and moral responsibility.

“Afghans in the diaspora in Australia and abroad no longer have a country to return to,” Dr Statham said.

“Ordinary Australians including Anglicans and people of all faiths, worldview and backgrounds stand ready now to fully welcome Afghan refugees. It is time for the federal government to follow suit.”

The motion was passed without debate 447 to 17, with 11 abstaining.

The second motion asked the federal government to release refugees brought to Australia under the now-repealed medevac legislation. It was also brought to synod by Dr Statham.

In the nine months the legislation was in effect in 2019, some 192 people were transferred from offshore processing in Nauru and Papua New Guinea to Australia for medical treatment, but found themselves indefinitely detained in detention centres around the country.

Dr Statham said of 13 October 2021, 60 of these people continue to be held in indefinite detention.

“Medivac refugees were brought to Australia to receive treatment for health issues which for many included mental health issues that were a consequence of offshore processing,” Dr Statham said.

“The prolonged and indefinite detention they have experienced whilst being detained in onshore closed immigration detention facilities is likely to have exacerbated and increased their uncertainty and suffering.”

Dr Statham’s motion also urged the Migrant Services Minister Alex Hawke to accelerate the process of moving indefinitely detained medevac refugees and people seeking asylum into the community on bridging visas.

The motion was not debated, and passed 435 to 21, with 10 abstaining.

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