This week's news and notices from congregations, the SA Presbytery and Synod, and the wider Uniting Church.
Uniting Church President condemns cruel treatment
Posted in News
Stuart McMillan, the President of the Uniting Church in Australia, has condemned recently announced plans to cut federal government support from a group of asylum seekers living in the Australian community.
Media outlets have reported that the immigration department has already informed approximately 100 asylum seekers will be placed onto a ‘Final Departure Bridging E Visa’. Those affected are people transferred to Australia from offshore detention for medical treatment. Included are a significant number of children, and women who are survivors of sexual assault or rape.
After being moved to the new visa, asylum seekers were told that they would lose their income support and be forced to move out of government-supported accommodation within three weeks. The income support payments ceased on Monday 28 August.
The asylum seekers have been advised to prepare to return to offshore detention or a country in which they have a right of residence, and are expected to support themselves in the community until they depart. This is particularly difficult because, refugee advocates explain, these asylum seekers have previously been prevented from working. The new visa allows individuals to obtain work, but “[if] you cannot find work to support yourself in Australia you will need to return to a regional processing country or any country where you have a right of residence” (Final Departure Bridging E Visa Fact Sheet).
Fairfax Media reported that government support would soon be cut to up to 400 asylum seekers using this new category of visa.
“This is such a cruel way to treat vulnerable people,” says Stuart.
“Has the Australian Government lost its moral compass entirely? This is totally unacceptable. Our Government should act with compassion and let these people stay.”
The Uniting Church in Australia since its inception has advocated for humanitarian treatment of people fleeing violence and persecution in their homeland. The Church’s 2015 statement Shelter from the Storm calls for a compassionate response to asylum seekers who should not be subjected to harsh and punitive policies.
Stuart, along with each of the Uniting Church Moderators, wrote to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Monday 21 August to urge him to deal more humanely with asylum seekers and refugees, including those being held in offshore detention.
“Mr Dutton’s actions show he clearly places no value on what Uniting Church leaders think. For the sake of these vulnerable people I’d urge his government colleagues, including the Prime Minister, to intervene and ensure a compassionate response,” Stuart says.
This article utilises information from a Uniting Church in Australia Assembly media release, news reports and the Final Departure Bridging E Visa Fact Sheet.
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