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Government must Help Refugees - Bishop Vincent Long

Last edited 5th November 2017

Government must Help Refugees - Bishop Vincent Long

The safety and wellbeing of over 600 asylum-seekers on Manus Island are at risk following the closure of the regional processing centre. These men, most of whom are proven refugees, were held in mandatory and indefinite detention under an agreement between the Australian and PNG governments.

Now after more than four years, this agreement has not worked. It has failed to provide welfare and safety to the detainees. Furthermore, very few have been resettled elsewhere.

Australia, which authorised the detention of these asylum-seekers in the first place, cannot abrogate its responsibility. The situation on Manus Island is turning into a humanitarian disaster and it is a direct result of our governments’ failed policy.

As a nation that prides itself on its respect for the rule of law and its globally responsible citizenship, we must find a workable and principled solution.

It is time for us to deal with the issue of asylum-seekers and refugees according to this nation’s proud tradition and the best nature of its citizens.

We can do a whole lot better, just as we did welcome “those who’ve come across the seas” after the wars in Europe and in Southeast Asia. The concern for maritime border security does not have to make us into a mean-spirited people. This is not who our First Peoples are, nor should it be the characterisation of all Australians today.

The policy of offshore detention has cost Australia dearly. But it has cost the detainees and their families even more. I appeal to the government and political leaders to act in accordance with our honourable tradition.

It is time to find an alternative and conscionable solution, including accepting New Zealand’s offer of resettlement and bringing the remaining detainees on Manus Island to Australia.

– Bishop Vincent Long is the Bishop Delegate for Migrants and Refugees

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