REFUGEES IN THE PACIFIC

STATEMENT

October 26, 2001

Joint statement by The Pacific Conference Of Churches, Pacific Desk of the World Council of Churches, Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, Pacific Concerns Resource Centre, Pacific Theological College, Pacific Foundation for the Advancement Of Women, Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific, Ecumenical Centre for Research and Advocacy, South Pacific Association of Theological Schools.

The issue of accommodating refugees in detention centers on some of the small islands in the Pacific for Australian immigration screening purposes is a sensitive issue and concern for the Churches and Peoples of the Pacific. The Australian Government refuses to comply with the United Nations 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees, which Australia has signed and ratified "to provide asylum to refugees, irrespective of their mode of arrival." Instead the Australian government has made aid deals with the governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea, and now approaching Fiji and Kiribati without wide national consultation on the issue.

The Pacific Conference of Churches together with national member churches and Pacific Regional NGOs, on behalf of the peoples of the Pacific, voice our concerns over the Australian leadership’s denial of their moral and legal obligation to support and protect those who flee their own countries because of persecution and violation of human rights.

We support the National Council of Churches of Australia in appealing to the Australian leadership to exercise her role as a democratic state, which upholds human rights principles, to reconsider its decision and accommodate refugees within Australia.

We also appeal to Pacific Island Governments to carefully consider the long-term impact and consequences of accepting Australian aid deals in connection to the refugees. To welcome and accommodate Australian refugees for the sake of money will add more problems and will have adverse impacts on our communal life as Pacific communities, as well as our sovereignty. Pacific island Governments need to focus on finding solutions to overcome political, social and economic problems at home.

We are also concerned that accepting the Australian aid deals will make Pacific Island Governments part of the process that solicits money/profits out of trade in human trafficking, and in this case the asylum seekers.

We collectively reiterate our stand in safeguarding Pacific Islands dignity and refuse to see the Pacific region continuously becoming a dumping ground for the benefit of industrialized nations.

For further information, contact: PCC Secretariat GPO Box 208 Tel: (678) 311277 Fax: (678) 303205 Email: pacific@is.com.fj 

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