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No asylum in Australia

26 July 2013


Ashore: a rescuer carries a child after a boat carrying asylum seekers sank off Java island, in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia,  on Wednesday. Rescuers were searching on Wednesday for dozens of asylum seekers still believed missing after their boat sank in Indonesian waters on the way to Australia. More than 150 survivors were brought to safety and three bodies were recovered 

Ashore: a rescuer carries a child after a boat carrying asylum seekers sank off Java island, in Cianjur, West Java, Indonesia,  on Wednesday. R...

THE Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, has urged politicians on both sides of Australian politics to work together to find a solution to the problem of asylum-seekers who arrive by sea.

The issue of boat arrivals has caused political controversy in Australia for more than a decade, but the recent rapid increase in the numbers of arrivals, and of deaths at sea, has inflamed the debate.

"We have a system in crisis, and nothing less than a national consensus can fix it," Dr Freier said. "Our nation's political leaders owe it to us all to put aside electoral advantage, and agree on policies that are compassionate, and protect asylum-seekers from exploitation, and death at sea."

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, should "tone down the rhetoric of the debate", he said.

The Bishop of Tasmania, the Rt Revd John Harrower, used Twitter to tell Mr Rudd that "Jesus weeps" over the new policy to deter asylum-seekers from arriving by sea, announced by the Prime Minister. This policy will not allow asylum-seekers deemed to be refugees to resettle in Australia. They will be resettled either in Papua New Guinea, where they will all now go for processing and detention, or in a third country.

Bishop Harrower called the policy "reprehensible". Christian leaders such Mr Rudd, who is a regular churchgoer, and Mr Abbott, a Roman Catholic, should be working to find a genuine regional solution - including refugee resettlement in Australia - to the problem of boat arrivals, he said.

This week the Prime Minister is expected to set a date for the federal election, which is due before the end of the year. Asylum-seeker policy will be a key election issue.

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