Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has warned churches and cathedrals offering “sanctuary” to asylum-seekers facing deportation to Nauru that the government expects them to obey the law “no matter who you are”, reports The Australian.
More than 10 churches across Australia yesterday began offering to shield asylum-seekers under the ancient Christian tradition that people fleeing unjust civil authorities can reside permanently inside a church.
Mr Dutton said the churches would receive no special exemptions from the law.
“Churches provide a lot of assistance to refugees and they feel very strongly about these issues, I understand that. In the end people have to abide by Australian law, no matter who you are,” Mr Dutton told Sydney’s 2GB radio.
“We’ll deal with issues compassionately and sensibly, but there were 1200 people who drowned at sea trying to get to Australia including women and children, and there were 8000 children in detention when Labor was in power, and I’ve reduced that number down to 80.
“I want to be the minister that gets kids out of detention and keeps boats stopped at the same time.”
The Anglican Dean of Brisbane, Peter Catt, said his community could not ignore the consequences of the High Court ruling, which threatened to inflict further damage on already traumatised people.
“This fundamentally goes against our faith, so our church community is compelled to act, despite the possibility of individual penalty against us,” Dr Catt told The Australian.
“It is an extraordinary step. It is a step that will attract the attention of church communities around the world.”
He acknowledged there might not be a legal basis for the concept of sanctuary, which had its roots in the Old Testament, saying he was prepared for the “appalling spectacle” of authorities raiding his cathedral to remove the asylum-seekers.
“I would certainly ask them to leave their weapons outside as a mark of respect … but it would require someone to create a bit of a scene in a sacred space,” he said.
Church has no legal basis to offer asylum sanctuary: QC (The Australian)