Sister Brigid Arthur, Acting Chair of the Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce, said today that the people had spoken, and this time the Government had listened.
“I prayed that Australia would open its hearts and its doors to people facing the greatest need for protection, as did so many others from churches and homes all across Australia”. She said that “it’s not yet clear what Mr Abbott means by prioritising persecuted minorities, but we need to remember that people of all faiths have suffered enormous loss, and that’s why they fled.”
“I’m so glad that people fleeing Syria and Iraq will be offered places that are additional to our existing quotas. The initial announcement would have been robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
“I’m also so relieved that people will be offered permanent places in Australia – we still have so many thousands of people who are languishing in detention or even in the community, with no certainty about their lives, which is literally sending them crazy.”
The Taskforce is also calling on the Government to now process and release Syrian and Iraqi asylum seekers who are rotting in Nauru and Manus Island, or who are in detention in Australia. Sister Brigid said: “the Government has recognised that people from these countries have no choice but to run for their lives, so there is no basis for not processing those that have already made it here,” she said.
“I am very distressed though to learn that included in this wonderful announcement today, is the decision to participate in the bombing campaign in Syria – how will Mr Abbott ensure that innocent people won’t be killed in strikes undertaken by the Australian Defence Force?”
Misha Coleman, Executive Officer of the Taskforce, said that “the increased aid money to neighbouring countries and refugees who have no food, clothing or shelter, via the UNHCR, is an enlightened move on behalf of this government. But I call on the Abbott Government to release the estimates of what it will cost the Australian taxpayer to participate in the bombing of Syria.”
Available for comment:
Executive Officer, Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce, 0428 399 739
Sister Brigid Arthur
Vice Chair of the Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce, 0408 101 134