Media Release: Tuesday, 20 June, 2006

Australia must measure its national character by its treatment of the weak and vulnerable, according to Jim Wallace, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL). The proposed changes to the Migration Act are therefore of concern.

“This Bill penalizes vulnerable people fleeing appalling persecution,” said Mr Wallace. “Whilst we appreciate the government’s need to control access to this country and deter people smugglers, we begin from the assumption that we have a responsibility to welcome refugees and asylum seekers and to share our blessings with those less fortunate than ourselves.”

The Bill unfairly discriminates against asylum seekers who arrive by boat, rather than by air. The proposed changes would mean that families and children are once again placed in mandatory detention, but this time offshore and beyond the reach of NGOs and others who might bring a little external scrutiny. Mr Wallace was particularly concerned that there were no time limits for settlement.

“Once someone has been found to be a refugee, the government will try to place them in a third country, anywhere except Australia. If there is no country willing to take them, then there is nothing in this legislation to prevent people languishing in detention centres indefinitely. Why are we doing this to already traumatized people when research has repeatedly shown that long term detention is detrimental to their mental and physical health?”

”This government has shown excellent resolve to uphold Christian values in so many areas.

Compassion towards those in need is a key Christian value and the Bible repeatedly exhorts us to defend the rights of strangers in our land,” said Mr Wallace.

Contact: Jim Wallace