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Media Release: Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce urge adherence to international measures on the use of force and securement for Manus Island transfer.

November 14 2017 The Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce (ACRT) maintains the belief that those whom sought Australia’s protection, and were transferred to Nauru and Manus Island PNG, have suffered enough.  The failed attempt to regionally re-settlement this group for more than four years has resulted in personal suffering, deaths and international condemnation from the United Nations.  The imperative now is to secure a safe place for re-settlement, or at the least, a safe place to continue the search for a sustainable re-settlement option.

However, in the instance that the Australian Government refuses to bring these men to safety, the ACRT urges PNG to uphold international measures, through various United Nations international instruments, to avoid using force to coerce, remove or evict vulnerable people from their place of stay.

Taskforce Chair, the Very Rev’d Dr. Peter Catt:
“We support the PNG Government in the directive of their own security forces not to use force on the refugees who are refusing to leave the detention centre.  Where fear drives a refusal to relocate for the refugees and where a history of suffering is embedded in this fear, we urge the PNG Government to continue to avoid the use of force to relocate refugees to alternative locations.”

Many ACRT member churches have partner churches in PNG and have concerns about the way PNG is being cast as a violent and uruly nation in response to the refugees residing on Manus Island.

Taskforce Chair, the Very Rev’d Dr. Peter Catt:
“We know that PNG has issues of concern for its population and its nation.  Australia’s history in PNG is a contributing factor to the challenges and poverty in PNG.  But for the context on Manus Island we recognise this is not the fault of the refugees, the PNG locals or their Government.  Australia wanted a quick fix to a situation which has turned into a protracted and harmful experience for many.  The situation has put enormous ethical pressure on all involved and needs to be resolved peacefully.”

The ACRT urges the Australian Government to address the fears of the refugees who remain in the former detention centre.  Without a resolution that either involves immediate transfer to Australia or heightened security, food and housing safety in the alternative accommodation, fears for the men’s health and wellbeing escalate each day.

There should be no reason that additional measures to address the men’s concerns cannot be put in place to resolve the short term situation.

Media inquiries may be directed to:
The Very Rev’d Dr. Peter Catt
Chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce

Caz Coleman
ACRT Executive Officer

Media Release: ACRT acknowledge refugee fear as centre closes on Manus Island PNG

2 November 2017

The ACRT recognises that the offshore processing arrangements when first proposed by the Expert Panel in 2012, were never designed to be protracted in Nauru or on Manus Island PNG. The aim was always for safe re-settlement regionally and was clearly articulated in the Expert Panel report to create such protection.

Taskforce Chair, the Very Rev’d Dr. Peter Catt:
“The outcome of offshore detention for a second time in Australia’s history has created a serious breach of human rights and a devastating fear for those who are experiencing it. There are times when we have to face that harm has been done and that restitution is necessary.”

Whilst any durable solution for those on Nauru and in Manus Island through the US deal is welcome, there is no reason such arrangements cannot proceed in Australia. Achieving safety is the core purpose of the Refugee Convention. The situation on Manus Island PNG is clearly not safe for the refugees living there. Rather than blaming the local Manus island residents, it must be acknowledged that Australian Government leaders over the past 4 years have failed to recognise the dangers of warehousing refugees in communities and countries who have their own disadvantage, struggles and conflicts.

Taskforce Chair, the Very Rev’d Dr. Peter Catt:
“There is a strong system in place to prevent boats coming to Australia, so achieving safe re-settlement for those in Nauru and the Manus Island reception centre is an imperative. The level of harm may not have been originally intended by the Expert Panel in their recommendations, or by either side of Government, but it has happened. It is enough and we must learn from this.”

It is time to end attempts to abrogate Australia’s responsibility to care for and process those seeking our protection. Upholding Australia’s own responsibilities and working within the region to create sustainable solutions is the only way to achieve safety and dignity for each person requesting protection.

Media inquiries may be directed to:
The Very Rev’d Dr. Peter Catt
Chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce

Media Release: Catholic Orders from across Australia call for Amnesty for the people in detention camps saying #BringThemHere!

AUGUST 18 2016: Sisters from Catholic religious orders across Australia will today sign a statement calling on the Prime Minister to issue an amnesty for those suffering intolerable cruelty in Australia’s offshore detention camps, and back a call for a Summit on Solutions to take the politics out of refugee policy.

Sr Monica Cavanagh, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of St Joseph, said that the celebration of 150 years of the life and work of Saint Mary Mackillop, being celebrated here in Sydney this week, motivated Catholic Orders to do what Sister Mary would have done, which is to “ask that the people seeking asylum on Manus Island and Nauru, be brought here to Australia”.

“In the context of the imminent closure of the Manus camp – announced yesterday by the PNG and Australian Government – the men on Manus must be granted this amnesty and brought to Australia, not to some other temporary or unsafe context”, Sr Monica said.

Speaking at Mary Mackillop Place in Sydney today, Sr Monica said “after people are brought here to safety, we fully support the call for a Summit on Solutions, so that the best alternatives can be thrashed out in a bipartisan way”.

“We are making a personal appeal to Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten: please put human dignity above politics by agreeing to work together.”

Also speaking at the celebrations for Saint Mary Mackillop today, Misha Coleman, Executive Officer of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, said that: “we don’t accept the argument that it’s impossible to bring people here for fear of the people smuggling trade re-starting.

“We can’t wait for more children to be abused in the offshore camps for alternatives to be put in place. That’s why Catholic Sisters from across Australia are calling for a one-off amnesty for people in the offshore centres-this is less than 2000 people!”

“Most of these people have already been found to be refugees. They have endured enough. Let’s empty the camps.”

“We also don’t accept that Australia has to turn people seeking asylum back to the countries from which they’ve fled, in order to have a sound policy framework.

“There are alternative solutions that are being ignored because of partisan debates. We need a Summit of Solution now to force our leaders to put safety above politics.

Photos available on request.

Media Inquiries and comment:

Misha Coleman, Executive Officer, Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, 0428 399 739

Peter Stahel (Essential Media) 0408 584 439


By | August 18th, 2016|Front - News, Press Releases|

Press Release: Nauru child abuse – “the government knew and did nothing”

AUGUST 10 2016: The Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce says the Nauru files released today corroborate previous allegations submitted to the government and the Moss Review as far back as 2014.

Misha Coleman, Executive Director of the Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce: “The files released today corroborate the allegations made in letters from detainees which were smuggled out of the Nauru camp and given to the Taskforce in 2014.

“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 of children, mums and dads occurring every day in these camps are funded by Australian taxpayers. Taskforce Chair, The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt:

“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 Dondale Detention Centre, we call on the government to react swiftly and bring people here to Australia, out of harm’s way.”

Available for interview:
Rev’d Peter Catt: 0404 052 494
Misha Coleman: 0428 399 739


Press Release: Self-immolation tragedies on Nauru direct result of cruel refugee policy

MAY 5 2016: A 21-year-old Somali refugee has set herself alight on Nauru in what is the second attempted self-immolation on the island in a week.

Misha Coleman, Executive Officer of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce said:

“People are not seeking attention – they are trying to end their lives.

“After years on Nauru, with absolutely no end in sight, their depression is so acute that ending their lives appears to them to be their only “resettlement option”.

“The system is designed to break the spirit of refugees to give up on their right to seek asylum. They have no hope and this tragedy is the result.

“There are other options Prime Minister. No other country in the world has a policy as cruel as this. Enough!

“Statements from the Government of Nauru blaming victims and advocates are a sad reflection of the influence of money in the relationship with the Australian Government that ignores human rights,” Ms Coleman said.

Media contact: Peter Stahel 0408 584 439

Press Release: National Day of Prayer to be held for Mothers of the Young Men on Manus

MAY 4 2016: The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce is calling a National Day of Prayer for every mother who has a son or daughter in one of Australia’s offshore detention centres, to coincide with Mother’s Day on May 8th.

The Very Reverend Dr Peter Catt of St. John’s Anglican Cathedral in Brisbane, and Chairperson of the Taskforce says “As we cherish and hold in prayer our own mothers this Sunday, we must also be challenged to acknowledge and pray for the mothers who are the victims of our border politics”.

“Mothers of refugees are very significant in the biblical narrative, including the mother of Moses and the mother of Jesus.”

“They are the all-too-forgotten victims of detention policies, who must live with the daily uncertainty about their children’s freedom, safety and health.”

The day of prayer was called following the announcement that the Supreme Court of PNG has determined the offshore processing centre Manus Island to be illegal.

The future of the young men who have been languishing on Manus is uncertain.

Advocates across the country, using the hashtag #BringThemHere, say the men should have been brought to Australia long ago.

Executive Officer of the Taskforce, Misha Coleman said that “as a mother myself, watching the Four Corners expose on the death of a young man in our care on Manus Island ( April 25th) really made me think about the impact offshore detention camps such as Manus Island have on mothers of asylum seekers.

Churches, clergy and parishioners who want to join the prayers, in their own church at their own time, can do so easily by registering at

Media Inquiries and comment:

Misha Coleman, Executive Officer, Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, 0428 399 739

The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt, Chair, Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, 0404 052 494


By | May 4th, 2016|Front - News, Press Releases|

Asylum seeker children in detention: Why the church has a duty to speak up

Usually dutiful Christians have been radicalised by a mounting outrage, concern and grief at the way we have been treating asylum seekers. This has prompted an unprecedented coalition of church groups determined to persuade the two Christian leaders responsible for the policy – Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison – to show more compassion to the vulnerable. From the Sydney Morning Herald, by Julia Baird.

Read the full story:

By | December 1st, 2015|Front - News|

Do Unto Others; Changing the Boats Narrative

Church leaders, meeting in Brisbane today, call on the new Australian PM to show leadership on asylum.  Read more.

By | November 23rd, 2015|Front - News|

Taskforce agrees with Tasmanian Government that it’s ready to take asylum seekers

From the ABC: Taskforce agrees with Tasmanian Government that it’s ready to take asylum seekers.

Immediate Sanctuary Required for Refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq – Uniting Justice Australia

The Uniting Church in Australia is today calling on the Government to commit to a significant increase in Australia’s refugee intake as a response to the crisis in Syria.

“While we welcome the Federal Government’s commitment to increase our refugee intake from Syria, the scale of this crisis requires a much greater response,” said Uniting Church President Mr Stuart McMillan.

Read the full press release at the Uniting Justice website.

By | September 8th, 2015|Front - News, Latest News, Press Releases|