The Bishop of Darwin, Eugene Hurley, says Australia's asylum debate has been largely shaped by ignorance. Bishop Hurley says asylum-seekers are misunderstood, demonised and all too often labelled as queue-jumpers and terrorists, reports SBS.
He describes policies such as mandatory and off-shore detention as simply un-Christian. 'Not only is it un-Christian, but when one begins to look at the various international covenants to which we are signatories, it seems to me that it's failing some of the tests that would be normally be applied there.'
Bishop Hurley says Australians should expect a more morally forthright approach to the asylum debate from political leaders. He says asylum-seekers have a legal right to seek refuge in Australia, disputing the new government description of asylum-seekers arriving by boat as 'illegals.'
Bishop Hurley says the immigration office of the Australian Bishops Conference regularly raises objections over government asylum policies. 'However, in general, they elect not to engage, or connect with us, or to discuss the matter. I personally wrote to the then-prime minister prior to the recent election and the then-leader of the opposition. I did have the courtesy of a phone call from the then-minister (Tony) Burke but had absolutely no acknowledgment of the letter from the then opposition.'
Bishop Hurley says this approach makes it hard to engage with government on the asylum issue in a meaningful way.
And he holds out particular criticism of the weekly press briefings held by the new Coalition Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison. 'It was a very oft-quoted and alluded-to matter prior to the election. There didn't seem to be any difficulty about approaching those matters prior to the election. But it seems that since the election it's become a matter of concern for the government.'
The Anglican Archbishop, Glenn Davies, shares the Catholic Bishop Hurley's views on the state of the asylum debate in Australia.
FULL STORY The moral compass on asylum policy