Statement from Bishop Philip Huggins,
Chair of the Melbourne Anglican Social Responsibilities Committee

The proper use of the word “illegal” as regards asylum seekers continues to be contested.

Meanwhile, the new Minister for Immigration is urged to give consideration to these questions:

1. In terms of modelling good leadership, is it not better to use more moderate language than language with harsh associations to criminality?

When there is a choice, is it not better to think the best of, rather than the worst of, another’s motivations; to be generous-spirited rather than mean-spirited?

Negative stereotypes which create an “illegal” them can be a wedge through which extremist groups ‘legitimise’ behaviour which is otherwise unacceptable.

History shows us this, and we have the memory of the reactions to the inaccurate claim that asylum seekers were throwing their own children overboard.

2. Is it fair to place on Public Servants the obligation to change from neutral and respectful language to this negative language, irrespective of their own conscience about this matter and their own experience of the plight of asylum seekers?

3. Is it fair to call “illegals” people such as:

  • Young Hazara boys who have seen their fathers and brothers murdered by religious extremists, whose families have helped them escape a similar fate by the only means available, who are anxious about their mothers and sisters, uncertain about what kind of future, if any, they now have in Australia?
  • Those of minority religious groups who are being targeted by religious extremists in places as diverse as Egypt, Syria, Burma and Pakistan, who cannot get a visa out of their country and who must flee for their survival?

These are examples of people to whom the Minister’s term “illegal” applies.

It is an application which fails any test of decency.

Instead of this and the reinstatement of Temporary Protection Visas, the Minister is urged to announce an amnesty for those now in the country, however they arrived.

Let them belong. Let there be a fresh beginning for these people and for our Nation.

They are mostly young. They want to contribute. Most have nowhere else to go and need our support. In a world of 40 million displaced people, our nation can offer this in international leadership.

 

-Ends-

Media contacts:
Bishop Philip Huggins 03 9653 4243 or 0418 799 515
Communications Director Roland Ashby on  03 9653 4215 or 0418 342 561

 

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