Comments by church leaders 'offensive'
Though well intentioned, church leaders are wrong to liken detention to child abuse says Parliamentary Secretary to the PM Alan Tudge.PT0M0S 620 349
A group of Catholic and Anglican church leaders have accused the Abbott government of ''state-sanctioned child abuse'' in the immigration detention system, and called for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to step down from his position as guardian for all unaccompanied minors.
Leaders from nine Christian denominations, which form the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, will release a report on Wednesday that commends a raft of recommendations to the Abbott government to improve the wellbeing and treatment of children in onshore and offshore immigration detention centres.
The claims were rejected by Mr Morrison.
Calls to step down from his position as guardian for all unaccompanied minors: Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Wolter Peeters
''Claims of state sanctioned child abuse are shocking and offensive and the Minister rejects these categorically,'' a spokeswoman for Mr Morrison said.
''The Minister has not been sent the final report. It is hardly fair for him to respond to a report that he has not yet seen or been given the courtesy to review to provide a response from the government.
''As the Minister has previously stated wherever people have made claims that may have basis he will look to make improvements.''
The church leaders, including the Anglican Dean of Brisbane, say the church has learnt a painful lesson from decades of child abuse within their congregations and it should never have been ignored.
Reverend Peter Catt, the Anglican Dean of Brisbane said: ''We'll never again stand by and do nothing about child abuse.
''We have the absolute duty to make sure the events that came out from the Royal Commission aren't repeated in any setting. Institutional child abuse occurs in many different settings and it's illegal, it's horrific and it's unacceptable.''
The recommendations in the report include ending closed detention for all unaccompanied children; providing institutional child welfare and protection; and replacing the Immigration Minister as the guardian of about 135 unaccompanied asylum seeker children who are being held in onshore and offshore centres, including Nauru. There are about 4330 children in immigration detention - most of them living in the community.
''The Minister forsakes his guardianship duties when he sends unaccompanied children to the detention camp in Nauru,'' says the report, titled Protecting the Lonely Children.
The report said there was clear evidence that children are experiencing ''terrible physical and mental suffering''.