​Statement by Bishop Philip Huggins, Chair of the Melbourne Anglican Social Responsibilities Committee
 
How shameful it is that Australia has been found guilty of almost 150 violations of international law regarding the indefinite detention of refugees (UN Human Rights Committee, reported 23/8/2013).
 
This week I visited and prayed with some young people who have been detained more than four years. One had just heard his father had died overnight in Sri Lanka. He has not seen his father in years. His grief was heartbreaking.
 
Months back, I went in a delegation to Canberra and met the then Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. He promised us a decent review process for the claims of these long-term detainees, recognising a failure of natural justice. Most of them are still in detention, stripped of their youth and their hope by a miserable failure of civilised political leadership. It is time for some grace and some restorative initiative.
 
Instead of continuing to punish those asylum seekers awaiting assessment, including those who are the focus of this UN Report, release them. Let them belong. Let them study, work, enjoy a normal life. Let them look forward to something better: weekends with family and friends and finding meaningful work in this great south land of Australia.
 
Both sides of politics are sure they have the policies to control people-smuggling. It is time now, as the election approaches, for some gesture of decency towards a world of 40 million displaced people. Draw the line. Let those already here, however they arrived, be invited to stay as full citizens - starting with those already detained more than four years and the subjects of this UN Report.
 
When Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott next meet in debate, may they announce together such a drawing of the line, repairing our nation's soul and international reputation for decency.

Contact: Bishop Philip Huggins on 9653 4243 or 0418 799 515

 

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