Church leaders petition Tamworth over refugee decision

Leaders from the Anglican, Catholic and Uniting churches have met with the Tamworth mayor in a bid to convince the council to keep an open mind on the resettlement of refugees after it last week refused to resettle five Sudanese refugee families in the NSW town.

The issue which has made the international media as far afield as South Africa and the Persian Gulf will be re-considered by the Tamworth council in the new year, the ABC reports.

A spokesman for the Tamworth churches, Rev Ken Fenton, described the refugee debate in the Northern NSW town as volatile, but important.

He has called for a solution to the problem, rather than fault-finding.

Rev Fenton says Mayor James Treloar told the church ministers he has been misquoted in media reports, where he is alleged to have said allowing refugees to move to Tamworth could cause problems akin to the Cronulla riots, and create health and law and order issues.

Earlier Cr Treloar had been quoted as saying that "cultural differences" were why hundreds of Tamworth locals were opposed to the additional settlement of five families from Sudan.

He was explaining the refusal by Tamworth City Council of an offer by the Immigration Department to resettle the families.

"The community has expressed enormous concerns of mistrust against the Sudanese people, and I think this is largely based on previous events like the Cronulla riots," Cr Treloar said, according to the Australian.

"It's a matter of cultural differences, and the sexual harassment of females unfortunately is just one of the problems."

But rather than rejecting five specific families, the town was in fact rejecting a refugee resettlement program that was under-resourced and fraught with problems, he said.

Tamworth churches say they will ask for members of the public to sign a petition on Saturday in Peel Street, calling on the council to reverse its decision to reject the refugees.

Tamworth church leaders begin petition for refugee resettlement (ABC News, 19/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Tamworth City

New life for Sydney's Sudanese refugees (CathNews, 25/8/06)
Sydney bishop outraged at slaying of refugee (CathNews, 21/2/06)
Queensland diocese complains about neo-nazi intimidation of refugees (CathNews, 26/7/05)

Racist claim as city votes to ban refugees (The Australian, 16/12/06)

20 Dec 2006