53. SHELTER FROM THE STORM: A UNITING CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA STATEMENT ON ASYLUM SEEKER AND REFUGEE POLICY (UnitingJustice Australia)

That the Assembly:

1. Adopts the statement Shelter from the Storm: A Uniting Church in Australia Statement on Asylum Seeker and Refugee Policy.

2. Affirms the commitment and actions of Uniting Church in Australia members, groups, congregations and agencies who have worked tirelessly to provide practical care and support, pastoral visits, chaplaincy and specialist services to asylum seekers in the community and in detention.

3. Affirms the commitment and actions of Uniting Church in Australia members who have advocated for the rights and wellbeing of asylum seekers and refugees through peaceful protests, non-violent direct action, direct lobbying of politicians and education and awareness raising programs and activities.

4. Commits itself and calls on members, councils and agencies of the Uniting Church to:

(a) continue to provide practical care and support to asylum seekers and refugees in the community and in detention centres as appropriate and where possible;

(b) continue to peacefully advocate for the rights of asylum seekers and refugees using appropriate strategies based on the ‘Principles for Good Policy for the Protection of Asylum Seekers and Refugees’ in the statement Shelter from the Storm: A Uniting Church in Australia Statement on Asylum Seeker and Refugee Policy; and

(c) continue to promote a more compassionate and informed response to asylum seekers within the church and Australian society.

5. Reiterates the calls on the Australian Government to:

(a) end the policy of the mandatory and indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees:

(i) initial health, security and identity screening should be limited to seven days, with children held for a maximum of 72 hours; and
(ii) asylum seekers should reside in the community in Australia with the right to work and access to education, healthcare and other social services as appropriate while their claims are processed;

(b) end the offshore processing of asylum seekers who arrive or attempt to arrive in Australia by boat:

(i) immediately release all children and their families from detention centres including Nauru, and allow them to live in the Australian community with appropriate access to funded legal advice, medical care, social services including financial support, and education while their claims are processed; and
(ii) close the detention centres on Christmas Island, Manus Island and Nauru and bring all asylum seekers to Australia to have their claims processed while they reside in the community;

(c) revoke the excision of territories and the mainland from Australia’s migration zone;

(d) provide permanent protection to all refugees including access to family reunion through the Special Humanitarian Program, regardless of visa class; and

(e) remove the link between the offshore and onshore program intakes.

6. Calls on the Australian Government to

(a) implement the recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission report, The Forgotten Children;

(b) increase the humanitarian intake to at least 25,000 in 2016–17, and increase it again over the following years to reach 60,000 by 2020;

(c) act immediately to improve conditions in detention centres in Australia, Manus Island and Nauru including:

(i) the establishment of an independent monitoring committee made up of experts to regularly monitor conditions in immigration detention facilities and report publicly;
(ii) the provision of safe and secure accommodation and services including water, electricity and sewerage;
(iii) the provision of timely and adequate psychological, social and medical care and access to education and recreation; and
(iv) the implementation of clear regulations for the appropriate training and conduct of authorised staff in immigration detention centres, an independent complaints mechanisms for asylum seekers and refugees in detention, and pathways for unbiased legal processes if staff conduct is inappropriate or if there is unacceptable use of force;

(d) end accelerated refugee status determination processes, except in cases of specific cohorts from source countries with recognised protection needs; and

(e) expedite a fair and transparent refugee determination process for all asylum seekers living in the community, ensuring people have work rights, education, healthcare and government assistance to support basic living needs while they wait, access to funded legal advice throughout, and access to independent and judicial review processes.

7. Calls on the Australian Government to work constructively with countries in the region to develop a genuine multilateral protection solution which upholds the rights of asylum seekers and refugees. This would include Australia acting to:

(a) end bilateral agreements pertaining to the detention or transfer of asylum seekers between Australia and our developing country neighbours such as Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and Nauru;

(b) end the interception and turn-back of boats carrying asylum seekers;

(c) engage in genuine multilateral negotiations, in consultation with UNHCR, for a shared regional solution to the protection needs of asylum seekers and refugees;

(d) develop and fund a regional Track II dialogue on forced migration;

(e) reverse the decision to refuse the resettlement of refugees from Indonesia and resettle a substantial number of refugees from the region; and

(f) ensure that the processing of refugee claims is fair, transparent and effective, wherever it takes place.