Tag Archives: Christmas Island

Uniting Church protests at Christmas Is incident

MEDIA RELEASE from UnitingJustice

Detention on Christmas Island must end

17 March 2011

The Uniting Church in Australia has expressed its horror at the excessive use of force against asylum seekers on Christmas Island this past weekend.

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rev. Alistair Macrae said today, ‘The confirmation by the Immigration Minister that “beanbag” bullets along with tear gas were used against an unarmed group of people partaking in a peaceful demonstration is of extreme concern to us.

‘Uniting Church members around the country have expressed their own distress about this incident. We fear that this use of force against already traumatised people will compound their trauma and despair.

‘This action is reminiscent of the worst of the Howard Government’s punitive treatment of people seeking our protection. It appears that it was the deployment and actions of AFP officers that lead to an escalation of what had been a peaceful protest,’ Rev. Macrae said.

‘This incident confirms the total inappropriateness of immigration detention on Christmas Island,’ said Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of the Uniting Church’s national justice and advocacy agency, UnitingJustice Australia.

‘When you detain people for months on end in overcrowded and unsuitable conditions, providing little information about their case and prospects of release, it is understandable that their frustrations and desperation will boil over.

‘While the Government’s commitment to the removal of children and families from detention is a welcome step forward, it is clear from this event and the countless other incidents in detention centres across the country, including a hunger strike only recently ended at Villawood, that the detention environment is unfit for any human being – man, woman or child.

‘The continued use of mandatory detention for asylum seekers on Christmas Island and in other locations on the mainland is a breach of Australia’s international human rights obligations and our duty of care to vulnerable, traumatised people.

‘We await the release of the full terms of reference for an independent inquiry into this incident which fully investigates the use of force in the detention environment. We also reiterate the Church’s call for an end to the inhumane, damaging and costly policy of mandatory detention,’ said Rev. Poulos.

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Church leaders voice concerns over wellbeing of asylum seekers on Christmas Island

The Uniting Church President, Al Macrae, and the Anglican Archbishop of Perth, Roger Herft, have just returned from a visit to asylum seekers on Christmas Island:

Rev. Macrae described the facilities as “basic but adequate for short-term needs. Accommodation overcrowding was clearly evident.” Rev. Macrae said, “It is disturbing to approach the detention centre, which is surrounded by a high fence topped with electrified wire. It looks like a high security prison.”

“Asylum seekers being processed at a reasonable speed appeared to be happy enough,” said Rev. Macrae, “however there is a high level of anxiety amongst those whose cases have taken longer to process. Those most distressed have been detained on Christmas Island for seven to eight months and more.”

The Uniting Church in Australia is a strong advocate for closing the detention centre on Christmas Island and processing asylum seekers on the mainland. While recognising the Detention Centre is unlikely to be closed in the short term, Rev. Macrae called for families and unaccompanied minors to be immediately transferred to the mainland for processing. “There is no reasonable justification for vulnerable children to be held in such a remote facility,” he said.

Read the full article at UnitingJustice Australia.

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