The archbishops of the Anglican Church of Australia have written an open letter expressing the “profound disquiet” over the government’s treatment of asylum seekers.
As leaders of the Anglican Church of Australia we wish to put on record our profound disquiet that at the end of February this year there were more than 950 children in detention facilities and alternative places of detention in Australia, and a further 177 children in offshore detention in Nauru. The average time people spend in detention is more than eight months.
While our Federal Government has been drawing attention to the number of days without boat arrivals, this is another set of numbers that needs close scrutiny. These children are innocent victims of tragic circumstances. To use the words of the UN Charter on the rights of the child, detention of children should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate time.
As church leaders, we are not seeking to express a party political opinion on this matter. Within our Church there is grave disquiet about the asylum seeker policies of both major parties.
It is our view that those who flee from desperate circumstances by boat should not be punished by prolonged detention whether in Australia, Nauru or Manus Island. They are not the people smugglers. They are people made in the image of God, who deserve respect from all Australians, but especially our Government and its agencies. They come to Australia out of desperation, fleeing religious, ethnic or economic persecution. They seek asylum under the Refugee Convention that as a nation we have signed. Many will be found to be refugees, as the Government’s own statistics demonstrate.
We call on the Australian Government to ensure that asylum seekers are treated humanely and respectfully by those charged with their care and protection, and that they are attended to in a timely manner.
The Most Reverend Dr Phillip Aspinall, Primate and Metropolitan of Queensland
The Most Reverend Dr Glenn Davies, Metropolitan of New South Wales
The Most Reverend Dr Jeffrey Driver, Metropolitan of South Australia
The Most Reverend Dr Philip Freier, Metropolitan of Victoria
The Right Reverend John Harrower OAM, Bishop of Tasmania
The Most Reverend Roger Herft AM, Metropolitan of Western Australia