The Anglican Church is concerned that the children who were rescued from the water in September have become forgotten in the political furore. These children and their families' suffering continues as part of the "Pacific Solution". They have been in detention on Nauru or in PNG for almost 6 months. What is their future to be?
"These children were rescued from a sinking vessel. Now they are still unsure of their future, and subjected to additional trauma," said Archbishop Ian George, Chair of the National Anglican Refugee Working Group. "We are particularly worried about the detention of children, and especially the lack of educational opportunities for those over primary school age."
"We are also concerned about the inordinate length of time taken in the processing of refugee applications for asylum. People are held in detention, both in Australia and overseas, for far too long," the Archbishop added.
Australians are generous people and over many decades have welcomed refugees to settle into the Australian community. Those refugees have made a great contribution to our national life.
Successive governments, on a bipartisan basis, have maintained an annual programme of acceptance of refugees into our immigration numbers. Churches have been involved for over 50 years in resettlement programmes with the government. The Anglican Church is disappointed that the reshaped Commonwealth refugee resettlement programme, now known as the Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Scheme, has resulted in less participation by church volunteers. Ordinary Australians are not being sufficiently resourced to do this work.
The Christian churches in Australia have consistently supported the acceptance of refugees into the community. We are moved to welcome people who seek refuge from situations of persecution, war and hunger by biblical teaching and Christian theology. Christians are reminded that the Scriptures say, for example, "when an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt" (Leviticus 19:33-34).
People in desperate need require a generous response. This is part of Australia's international obligations under the UN Convention on Refugees and other international humanitarian law.
The National Anglican Working Group calls upon the Government to rethink:
The system of mandatory detention and the location, management style and ethos of the detention centres.
The inordinate length of the processing of refugee applications for asylum.
The detention of children, many of whom are unaccompanied minors, through this long process.
The educational opportunities offered to these children, especially those over primary school age.
The health services offered in detention, especially to women and children.