Media Release: Friday, June 26, 2009
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) today welcomed the passage of legislation through Federal Parliament’s lower house to abolish charges levied on asylum seekers held in detention, saying this is a compassionate move which will remove a significant burden from refugees.
ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said that the 17-year-old policy of charging refugees for the cost of their own detention has placed a heavy financial burden on former detainees already facing the challenges of building a new life in Australia.
“The Christian faith encourages its followers to care for the poor and needy, which includes hospitality for strangers and justice for the oppressed,” Mr Wallace said.
“Many Christians are rightly concerned that Australia should welcome and care for refugees, providing them with just and compassionate treatment to help them find their place in our community.
“To post an indiscriminate charge on refugees held in detention is not supportable.
“Most Australians would not even have realised that this has been happening.”
Mr Wallace said the policy has also been shown to be unnecessary for economic reasons, with most of the detention debts accumulated in the past having to be written off because it has proved uneconomical to collect them.
“It is important that Australia does what it can to deter people smugglers, but this policy has been unnecessarily harsh and no doubt of little useful effect. I hope the Senate will quickly pass the Government’s bill to abolish detention debt when it sits again in August,” he said.
Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan