27 September 2022

Refugee policies remain unforgiving, positive steps being made toward inclusion: Advocates

Despite years lived on Australian shores, many refugees wait in limbo for permanent residency visas to be processed. Image: Andrei310

Kirralee Nicolle

20 June 2022

Christian refugee advocates are seeking greater recognition of those left waiting indefinitely for residency proceedings to be finalised.  

Melbourne Bishop Philip Huggins said everybody wins when those who have already been deemed safe members of the community are allowed to settle as permanent residents and find a pathway to becoming citizens.

Bishop Huggins said that this Refugee Week he and others were calling for the Labor government to announce an amnesty, a move he said would “make it easier on everybody”.

Bishop Huggins said that through their pastoral work, he had come to know many refugees as valued and respected members of their communities.

Read more: Call to improve asylum policies after 19 people released from detention

“Despite of the uncertainties, they have made a new life,” he said.

“They are much loved in our parish communities and wider community.”

He also said that detention caused trauma, and the government had an opportunity to bring some permanency into the lives of displaced people.

“We want policy that only ever heals and never causes harm,” he said.

Ahmet* is a refugee living in Victoria who attends an Anglican church with his wife and two children, and has established a painting business to support his family.

Ahmet said he left a dangerous situation in his home country and arrived in Australia in 2013 by boat.

He said that he was still in the process of trying to obtain permanent residency.

“I need my wife, myself and my kids living here for a better life and my kids growing in whichever religion they want,” he said.

Bishop Huggins said that Ahmet was an example of a nation-building citizen and a great contributor to the Commonwealth of Australia.

Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project co-founder Sister Brigid Arthur AO said that we have much to gain as a nation from being welcoming and inclusive toward refugees.

“We are a country of migrants, and those who have been accepted as refugees are always those who give back to society,” she said.

Read more: Why two bishops locked themselves in a cage this afternoon

“I think Australia could certainly have a sense of pride if we saw ourselves as an inclusive and accepting country.

“We’ve become known as that country which is punitive and cruel.”

Anglican Overseas Aid executive director Jo Knight said that our current refugee handling system was an unforgiving one, and that political leaders and lawmakers were only just catching up with its harsh realities.

“Christians and many compassionate people in our broader community have been working hard to raise the injustices of the system,” Ms Knight said.

“We are seeing positive steps of justice and the community is being heard.”

*Not his real name.

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