Baptists call for more compassionate immigration policy
Australian Baptist Ministries has cautiously welcomed recommendations of the independent expert panel on asylum seekers, but acknowledged the recommendations fell short of a compassionate response to the current crisis.
The Director of National Ministries for Australian Baptist Ministries, Rev Keith Jobberns, said the panel's recommendations went some way to reducing the tragic loss of life at sea and curbing the unlawful actions of people smugglers. But he said a new policy needed to address the real needs of genuine asylum seekers.
“It is disappointing that the expert panel has recommended assessing asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, and that the Prime Minister and Immigration Minister strongly endorsed this proposal at their press conference on Monday,” Rev Jobberns said.
“Such a policy will punish one group of vulnerable and displaced persons in order to send a message to others. However, what is the likelihood of it having an impact on the number of boats coming to Australia?”
“We are pleased that the report recommends an immediate increase in Australia’s Humanitarian Program from 13,750 to 20,000 places per annum, with at least 12,000 places reserves for the refugee component,” he said.
The Australian Baptist Ministries policy on immigration and asylum seekers, adopted by the National Council in November 2011, calls on the Australian Government to:
(a) reduce the rate of asylum claims by addressing human rights violations in countries of origin and disempowering people smugglers;
(b) pursue policies that seek to strengthen regional cooperation and expand protection of asylum seekers and refugees in the region;
(c) further increase the annual quota of UNHCR-registered refugees over the next five years;
(d) process claims for refugee status expeditiously and within 90 days;
(e) place child asylum seekers in appropriate community care while their claims for refugee status are assessed;
(f) cease the practice of sending unaccompanied minors to third countries.
The Baptist policy also calls on all Australian politicians to demonstrate their moral convictions and to exercise ethical and non-partisan leadership in debates on immigration and refugee policy, and encourages Baptists in Australia to act as advocates for asylum seekers and oppose off-shore and mandatory detention of asylum seekers.
Australian Baptist Ministries represents approximately 300,000 Baptists in more than 950 local churches throughout Australia.
Media contact Rod Benson 0412 421 678
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