Press Releases

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
0404052494

Caz Coleman
ACRT Executive Officer
0411876226

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
0404052494

Media Release: ACRT affirms Liberal MP’s call to find durable solutions for refugees and close Nauru and Manus.

August 17th 2017: The Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce (ACRT) applauds backbench MP Russell Broadbent for speaking in parliament about the need to resolve the situation on Nauru and Manus.  

Quoting the author and journalist David Marr, Mr Broadbent pointed to Marr’s comment that there could not be a better service to Christ than for Christians to fight for those Australia has imprisoned in Nauru and Manus.

The Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce has worked collaboratively with other agencies across Australia for four years to call for the closure of offshore detention.  The ACRT holds the position that neither Nauru nor Manus, is a durable solution in relation to the integration of refugees in either country.

Taskforce Chair, the Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt:

“We believe that any durable solution for those on Nauru and Manus through the US deal is welcome.  However, we firmly believe that Australia is the place people should have been processed and settled in the first instance.”

The offshore processing arrangements when first proposed by the Expert Panel in 2012, were never designed for integration into Nauru or Manus.  The aim was always for safe re-settlement and is clearly articulated in the report.

“Offshore processing has failed for the second time.  Neither Nauru nor Manus has the capacity or cultural readiness for integration of the refugees who were sent there.  People in both locations continue to live in fear with very few options for safety, dignity and economic sustainability.  Durable solutions must be found in either the US, Australia or another safe location.”

Mr Broadbent’s words in parliament reflect the faithful stance of the ACRT in the call to turn towards the suffering of those on Nauru and Manus and to create safety and dignity.  Australia has tried offshore processing twice now in two decades.  Both attempts have failed to create durable solutions and avoid suffering and permanent harm to those seeking Australia’s protection.

It is time to end attempts to abrogate Australia’s responsibility to care for and process those seeking our protection.  Working within the region to create sustainable solutions and focusing on community based care arrangements, is the only way to uphold the safety and dignity of each person requesting protection.

Media inquiries may be directed to:

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

Churches appeal to Government to show compassion in the face of violence on Manus Island over Easter

15 April 2017: A Media Release from the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce.

The Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce has condemned the violence that erupted on Manus Island on the evening of Good Friday, and calls for the camp to be evacuated. Read the full statement here.

 

Enough! Declare an amnesty today!

A Media Release from the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne. Given the likely failure of the refugee arrangement with the United States, Australian Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull should announce an amnesty and bring the asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus to Australia. Read the full release.

Media Release: Australian Churches welcome government recognition of the trauma caused by Nauru and Manus

13th November 2016: The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce says the acknowledgement from the Turnbull government today that the cruel refugee prisons on Nauru and Manus are unsustainable is welcome and long overdue, and the Taskforce will closely monitor any deals, to ensure that safe and fair resettlement is the ultimate priority.

General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, Sister Elizabeth Delaney, which represents 19 Christian churches in Australia, said today that “people in churches across Australia today are thanking God that our Government has finally understood that Australians will not tolerate the cruelty being inflicted on people who’ve been incarcerated indefinitely in remote, desolate locations within Nauru and Manus Province”.

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

“The fact that government has finally acknowledged that the refugee prisons are unsustainable means we are cautiously optimistic that we may be coming to the end of cruel and archaic offshore processing.”

“We also reject the need to send people who are currently here in Australia, the Let Them Stay group, back to Nauru, before they are eligible for resettlement to the US or elsewhere – that is playing games with families here, many who have very young children”.

“The devil is in the detail. We are particularly worried about the linking of the ‘lifetime refugee ban’ legislation with this announcement, specifically for the 20 families on Nauru who have family here in Australia”.

“Every single refugee must be given safe and fair resettlement. That is the only standard by which any international deal can be determined a success”.

“Not a single person must be left behind. The Turnbull government cannot think that sending some people to the US will distract from the further misery of others.

“If we needed any more proof that the lifetime refugee ban was motivated by nothing more than ugly partisan politics then we now have it. This announcement today exposes the ban completely as even more irrelevant.”

Media inquiries and comment:

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

Peter Stahel (Essential Media) 0408 584 439

By | November 14th, 2016|Front - Hot Topics, Press Releases|

Media Release: Churches welcome ALP decision on proposed refugee ban

8 November 2016:  An attempt to enshrine in law a total ban on all refugees who have no choice but to flee over oceans has been called out by the ALP, and we hope that other parties will follow the moral leadership shown by Mr Shorten today, says the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce.

Speaking from Parliament House in Canberra today, Misha Coleman, Executive Officer of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce said:

“This disgraceful proposal has been called out. But it’s not off the table yet, and we continue to worry about the potential for horse-trading over potential amendments.”

“An end to the race to the bottom on refugee policy is overdue. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end of refugees being used as political pawns.

“The bipartisan commitment to offshore detention is crumbling as the policy becomes increasingly  impossible to defend.

“Once the nasty partisan point scoring is taken out of refugee politics, we are confident that a workable solution can be found to treat refugees humanely on Australian soil and prevent deaths at sea. There is a better way.”

The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt, Chair of the Taskforce, said from the Anglican Cathedral in Brisbane today:

“This is the first positive move we have seen in our national discourse about people seeking asylum in years. The time has come to break with the simplistic rhetoric and have a proper national conversation about how we meet the needs of people who are fleeing war and persecution.”

Media enquiries and comment:

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

By | November 8th, 2016|Front - Hot Topics, Press Releases|

Press Release: Bans on refugees to be enshrined in bad and sad legislation, and call on the Senate to block it

30 October 2016: New laws, to be rushed into parliament when MPs return to Canberra next week, mean that many people who have been found to be refugees will be banned from ever obtaining an Australian visa of any kind, even as a tourist.

The legislation will create further fear, uncertainty and trauma to anyone who has ever been transferred to a regional processing centre.

Misha Coleman, Executive Officer of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, which represents over 930 Christian entities around Australia, said today that “the Government clearly has no plan. Mr Turnbull has just not been able to find a solution, an alternative nor a long term plan. Introducing legislation to keep people locked up forever will never be a solution that the Christian members of the Taskforce will accept”.

She said that “there ARE alternatives, and we’ll be releasing a package of policy options, which the government has failed to find itself, in the same week as this draconian legislation will be introduced into the House of Representatives”.

She also said that “this legislation will drastically affect 310 people seeking asylum that I speak to regularly, here in Melbourne and in suburbs around Australia, who are largely young families with small children.

The legislation is called The Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill and Christians around Australia will be called to action to prevent the passage of this bill and to support alternatives.

She said that “The Government’s policy of offshore detention is in disarray – they need to find a resolution for people who are withering away in the offshore camps, but the government can only come up with punitive plans to distract from the fact that they don’t have a plan, they don’t know what they are doing.”

“In the meantime, churches around  Australia will call on their elected Senators to block this legislation.”

Media Inquiries and comment:

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

Peter Stahel

Client Manager

T. 02 8280 9108   M. 0408 584 439   

Media Release: Turnbull Pledge to Obama summit is truly woeful – ACRT

21 September 2016:  The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce (ACRT) is highly disappointed with the much anticipated pledge that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took to the Obama Summit. 

Speaking from Thailand today, Executive Officer Ms Misha Coleman, said: “There had been a great deal of anticipation here in Bangkok yesterday amongst the hundreds of refugee organisations I’m here working with. This morning however, there is clearly nothing to celebrate”.

Ms Coleman said: “As demonstrated by figures from AHRC, Australia’s aid to the major countries of refugee origin and asylum in the Asia-Pacific region has been slashed. Additionally, since 2012/2012, the government’s overall aid budget has been slashed by $1.22 billion. So while of course the pledge today of $130 million is welcomed, it does little to redress the cuts that have made over recent years”.

 graph

Source: AHRC, Pathways to protection: a human rights-based response to the flight of asylum seekers by sea, 2016, p.58.

She said “the additional announcement that the government would not cut its commitment to provide 18,750 refugee resettlement places, pales in comparison to the new pledges that other countries made at the Summit”.

 Acting Chair of the Taskforce, Rev’d Mark Riessen, said that “we had hoped that Mr Turnbull would use the world stage in New York to announce an end to the hell that people are enduring in Nauru and in Manus Province, and would bring them here. Despite a series of highly credible reports being released over recent weeks, which outline alternatives and other options for the Government to take, unfortunately  the cruel attempt to cover up Government-sanctioned abuse  just continues.”

Media contact: Misha Coleman 0428 399 739

By | September 21st, 2016|Front - Hot Topics, Press Releases|

Press Release: #LetThemStay coalition’s response to Turnbull’s Pledge at Obama Summit

21 September 2016: Today’s announcement by the Australian government at the Obama Leaders’ Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis doesn’t address the future of around 2000 people currently languishing in offshore camps on Manus Island and Nauru said the Human Rights Law Centre, Getup and the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb said that while the Australian government’s pledge to keep the planned 2018 increase in the refugee resettlement intake to 18,750 per year and offer $130 million in increased financial assistance is a step forward, “showing decency to one person seeking asylum doesn’t justify or require cruelty to another.”

“Right now there are 2000 innocent people in our care who are suffering. I’ve sat face to face with women who have been sexually assaulted on Nauru. I’ve seen a man in our care collapse unconscious after being beaten on Manus. I’ve spoken with families desperate to begin rebuilding their lives in safety but who still languish on a painful road to nowhere after three years. Last night’s announcement doesn’t end their suffering.”

Matthew Phillips, GetUp Human Rights Director, said the Australian government has been humiliated at an international summit to help people fleeing conflict by it’s cruel policy of indefinite detention.

“Today’s announcement is a bad attempt at a cover-up. No other country in the world has deliberately and illegally held children, women and men for years on tiny remote island camps. It’s shameful that the PM can’t seem to resolve that situation and is instead making promises about 2018.” said Mr Phillips.

Mr Webb added, “Deliberate cruelty to innocent people is fundamentally wrong. Maintaining the planned intake and signing a cheque doesn’t make it right.”

Misha Coleman, Executive Officer, Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, said there are safe, viable and humane alternatives.

“We should be working with the UN and countries in our region to develop safe and orderly pathways to protection for people who need to seek it,” said Ms Coleman.

HRLC, Getup and ACRT said that after three years of fear, violence and limbo, it’s time to bring the men, women and children languishing on Nauru and Manus back to Australia to begin rebuilding their lives, just like the other people we will now be welcoming.

Mr Webb said,“Ultimately, whatever the policy challenge, deliberate cruelty to innocent people is never the solution.”

 

By | September 21st, 2016|Press Releases, ~ Slot 3|