THE Australian Government’s immigration policy is a “moral outrage” according to a community based protest group.
The Stop the Shame group, each Friday morning, stages a protest in front of the office of Federal Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis and they want action.
The group presented a petition to Mrs Sudmalis’ office, signed by more than 700 residents on Friday, seeking the end to what they claim is a harsh policy.
Group spokesperson Reverend Doctor David Millikan said the persecution must stop.
“We think it's a moral outrage that we are imprisoning people who just want to come to this country to escape persecution,” he said.
“We see it as a strain on the moral conscious of Australia.
“It alarms me that we Australians have learnt to be so cruel and so that is why we are here.
“We want those camps closed and those people brought here so they can have a decent life rather than being tormented.”
Rev Millikan said given a chance detainees would pay Australia back in many ways.
“These people are hard working people and they simply want to establish a decent life themselves and their kids,” he said.
He said refugees would enhance the Shoalhaven community.
“We believe it’s fundamentally wrong what we are doing to those people. We are driving them mad and it's just morally indefensible,” he said
“We will stay here until such time as those camps are closed.”
The group feels they are getting more community support the longer their protest goes.
They are a local group made up of church members, amnesty members and people from the community. This is their specific venture.
Amanda Findley, not as Mayor of Shoalhaven City, but as a concerned resident went with the group as they presented the petition.
The Member for Gilmore was not in her office on Friday but Rev Millikan said they still want her to represent their ideas
Mrs Sudmalis stood by the Coalition Government’s policy.
“Australia is one of the top resettlement countries in the world. We already do so much to assist with humanitarian issues, we increased the humanitarian program – rising from 13,750 to 18,750 by 2018-19,” she said.
“We must never forget why people are on Manus Island and Nauru - Labor lost control of our borders and put them there.
“There were four people in detention when Labor came to government in 2007. They were all in Australia and none were children.
“Apart from those in the Regional Processing Centres of Manus and Nauru, Labor left 30,000 illegal arrivals onshore, including 8000 children in detention.”
Mrs Sudmalis said the government was not just focussed on "stopping the boats".
“The Australian Government has stopped the boats and deaths at sea,” she said.
“We have secured our border, halted the abhorrent people-smuggling trade, removed all the children from detention and restored integrity to the immigration system.”
Mrs Sudmalis also explained the government's decision to settle a lawsuit with the 1900 Manus Island detainees.
“The Commonwealth is required by the Legal Services Directions to endeavour to avoid, prevent or limit the scope of legal proceedings,” she said
An anticipated six month legal battle for this case would have cost tens of millions of dollars in legal fees alone, with an unknown outcome.
“In such circumstances a settlement was considered a prudent outcome for Australian taxpayers.
“The Commonwealth strongly refutes and denies the claims made in these proceedings.”