Refugee numbers ‘eminently manageable’, says Bishop

​Bishop Philip Huggins has told the Melbourne Anglican Synod that the number of refugees, including asylum seekers, Australia was receiving was “eminently manageable” and that the national debate on the issue had to be reframed from a negative to a positive.
Bishop Huggins, the Chair of the diocesan Social Responsibilities Committee and Bishop of the Northern and Western Region of the Melbourne diocese, said community placement of asylum seekers was occurring without any reported incident.

“Once people are processed as to their health and security, rather than indefinite detention, which we know causes serious distress and disease, our agencies want to help with their placement in the community whilst their claims are processed,” Bishop Huggins said on 20 October in successfully moving that the Synod note the contribution made by Australian residents who were former refugees, including members of the Church, and affirming the need for policy on refugees and asylum seekers that was consistent with Australia’s moral obligations and international commitments.
He said community placement was a much more humane approach, especially for unaccompanied minors and families.
“If their claims to refugee status are validated, they will already be partially re-settled,” Bishop Huggins said.
“The small period in which they are takers will soon become the many years in which they give, grateful to Australia for resettling them – like many before them.
“Many refugees are young and highly motivated. An ageing population needs such resilient, motivated employees. And anyone who survives refugee camps and the Australian Immigration system become resilient!
“Certainly, there must always be attention to social cohesion but the numbers in our refugee intake, including asylum seekers, are eminently manageable.
“Before us always are Jesus’ words to us: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matthew 25:35).’ ”
Bishop Huggins acknowledged the difficulties faced by any minister for immigration with responsibility for refugees, with about 20 million refugees in camps awaiting resettlement, the average length of their stay being 24 years.
“How do we balance their needs in our quota against the asylum seekers fleeing terrible places, coming here on those boats as asylum seekers, utilising the ‘people-smugglers’?
“It is so hard to be fair to all.
“What has been inadequate in the political debate has been the focus on destroying the ‘people smugglers’ business model’, without recognising the desperate plight of those who make it here and our subsequent moral and legal obligations.”
The Revd Samuel Morton, Assistant Curate of St Matthew’s Prahran, said in seconding the motion that the only godly response was compassion.
Mr Morton said the Menzies Government voluntarily ratified the Refugee Convention on 22 January 1954 and, in doing so, made the Convention a binding international treaty.
“Therefore, should we not to be a country who is leading the way concerning refugee policy, processing and justice?” he asked.
“And how much more, should we as the church be acting compassionately for the refugee and asylum seeker? For are we not only held accountable to the Refugee Convention, but to our Lord God.”
The Revd Graham Reynolds, of Anglicare Victoria, said Australia was in breach of a number of United Nations agreements to which Australia was a signatory because of the way it was treating people seeking asylum. Neither of the main political parties could be proud of their record on this.
Mr Reynolds said 90 per cent of asylum seekers who arrived by boat were granted refugee status but the figure was only 23 per cent for those who arrived by plane.(


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