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Australian churches offer ‘sanctuary’ to asylum seekers facing government crackdown

Australian Christian churches have again said they will offer sanctuary to 100 asylum seekers who face having any Federal Government assistance they are receiving cut when medical treatment is completed.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton announced earlier this week that the asylum seekers – who were originally brought to Australia from Manus Island and Nauru for medical treatment – will have their government assistance cut when the medical treatment had been finalised. 

Launching an appeal for funds to support a network of agencies who will provide shelter and support to those affected by the Federal Government’s decision, the Very Rev Peter Catt, chairman of the Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce and the Anglican Dean of Brisbane, described the move as “cruel” and said that in response churches had once again extended an offer of sanctuary the asylum seekers.

“The sanctuary offer is still on the table should the government make moves to forcibly remove these people,” he said.

Churches – and up to nine denominations are reportedly involved in the latest offer – first made the offer of sanctuary early last year when the Federal Government said it would remove asylum seekers who had come to Australia for medical treatment back to offshore detention centres once that treatment had been completed.

Rev Dr Catt said the offer of sanctuary last year had precipated “a huge outpouring of support” and led to schools, hospitals and most states and territories being declared “places of sanctuary, safety and welcome”.

“We were very encouraged by this and call on the government to reverse its latest attempt to return these people, including children, to places of harm, such as Manus and Nauru, by starving them into it.”

He said that just this week more than 40 men and women “went into an appointment with immigration, emerging penniless, without housing and terrified of returning to harm on Manus and Nauru”. “Among them were pregnant women and women that came to Australia for treatment after being sexually assaulted on Nauru.”

The concept of ‘sanctuary’ comes from the Old Testament in the Bible and was used in the Middle Ages to allow people to seek sanctuary from arrest in churches. It’s use for sheltering asylum seekers remain untested in Australian courts.

Agencies which are involved in aiding the asylum seekers include the Australian Red Cross, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Victoria, the Romero Centre in Queensland, Vinnies NSW, Anglicare SA, and CARAD in Western Australia.

Australians can donate to the appeal at


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