Protection Not Punishment

Press Release -Friday 19th July, 2013

Rev. Elenie Poulos, Chairperson of the recently formed Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, has expressed grave concern at the new arrangements for asylum seekers announced today.“It is a tragedy that people fleeing persecution and looking for safety are dying at sea. The only way to stop this happening is to make it safe for people to stay in Indonesia, Malaysia or other countries in the region.“Today we heard nothing about better protecting people. Australia is closing the door to people in need. Shifting the burden to one of the poorest countries in our region is not improving protection. We are one of the richest countries on earth and we are turning our back on people in need.“This is not a matter of ‘left’ versus ‘right’ politics. This is about how we best respond out of a humanitarian perspective. Shifting the burden and sending people to stay in a malaria-ridden island with almost no supports is not an acceptable alternative to protection”, said Rev. Poulos. In 2012 less than 1% of world’s refugees were accepted by Australia. Much poorer countries are taking hundreds of thousands more every year. While Australia received 29,610 asylum applications in 2012, Turkey received 325,301, Jordan 135,946, Lebanon 134,896, South Sudan 101,480. Father Peter Catt, the Anglican Dean of Brisbane, who also chairs the Brisbane Anglican Diocese’s Social Responsibility Committee, expressed his dismay at the closed door policy.

“The punishment of vulnerable people continues. It is not a moral response to punish one group of people in order to send a message to another. A truly regional solution would see better protection for asylum seekers and refugees in throughout the region. And for those who arrive on shores, the moral response would be to process their claims for protection, as per our obligations under the Refugee Convention. “Asylum seekers are people loved by God. We have a moral responsibility to care for them. Asylum seekers who arrive by boat continue to be used to score political points. Real and durable solutions will not be found via closed doors and burden-shifting,” said Father Catt.

The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce is an initiative supported by the National Council of Churches in Australia, and is steered by representatives from seven Christian churches and three ecumenical bodies. The Taskforce is supported by a network of 216 Christian entities in Australia.

Media Contacts: Misha Coleman, Executive Officer, Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, 0428 399 739,; Dean Troth, Media Advisor, 0432 267 184

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