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Australian Church Leaders’ ‘Profound Disquiet’ Over Refugees

Press Release – Radio New Zealand

Australian church leaders have used their Easter messages to criticise the Australian government’s policy towards asylum seekers.REGION: Church Leaders’ ‘Profound Disquiet’ Over Refugee Babies

Australian church leaders have used their Easter messages to criticise the Australian government’s policy towards asylum seekers.

Radio NZ International [1] reported today that Anglican leaders were very concerned about the “177 children in detention on Nauru, and a further 950 at facilities across Australia”.

Over the past few weeks, religious groups have protested at the offices of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

The fate of children born in Australia to asylum seeker parents is soon to be decided by the courts. Last Friday, the Australian government was forced to say [2] that it would not send 26 babies currently being detained in Melbourne and on Christmas Island – all under the age of nine months – to Manus Island or Nauru, after being threatened with court action.

This is because the fate of another baby born in Australia to asylum seeker parents, known as baby Ferouz, is still to be decided by the courts.

At issue is whether the Australian government has the right to deport these babies as “unauthorised maritime arrivals”. Lawyers for the asylum seeker families say this classification cannot be applied to babies born in Australia who have never arrived in the country by boat.

‘Facts are facts’
“The question is whether babies born here came by boat and we say, just as a matter of fact, they didn’t. They came by being born here…facts are facts. These babies just did not arrive by boat” said solicitor Jacob Varghese of the Maurice Blackburn law firm.

Varghese said they were confident of winning the baby Ferouz case.
“The government always has the power to do the right thing and they don’t have to send these babies to Nauru or Manus Island. Babies shouldn’t be in detention, full stop” added Varghese.

Meanwhile, the Uniting Church of Australia [3] has called in its Easter message for a change in government policy towards asylum seekers.

“We hope for the day when Australia welcomes strangers in need, rather than punishing them as an example to others who might seek our help” said the church’s Professor Andrew Dutney.

Dutney also called for an end to the persecution of Australia’s indigenous people.

“One area of suffering that seems intractable is the disadvantage and marginalisation experienced by Australia’s First Peoples” Dutney said.

ENDS

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