Australia will permanently resettle an additional 12,000 refugees from Syria and its neighbouring countries over the next three years. The government will also immediately provide an additional $44 million in financial aid to the UNHCR.
On the weekend Prime Minister Tony Abbott indicated that Australia would take more refugees from the conflict-ridden region without increasing the existing humanitarian intake of 13,750 displaced people a year. Today’s announcement marks a considerable shift from that position.
“These will be permanent resettlement places over and above Australia’s existing humanitarian program of 13,750 this year rising to 18,750 in three years time,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said. “This is a very significant increase in Australia’s humanitarian intake and it’s a generous response to the current emergency. As I indicated yesterday, and confirmed today, our focus for these new 12,000 permanent resettlement places will be those people most in need of permanent protection – women, children and families from persecuted minorities who have sought temporary refuge in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. I do want to stress women, children and families, the most vulnerable of all.”
In recent days there have been impassioned pleas from the Federal Opposition, the Greens, NSW’s Premier Mike Baird, former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett, thousands of Australians who attended Light the Dark vigils around the country and a number of front benchers for the government to step up and do more in relation to this humanitarian crisis. Labor have been calling for at least an additional 10,000 refugees to be settled in Australia.
Those pleas appear to have been heard. When asked why he had changed his position, Tony Abbott said this. “Well, it’s important that we act with our head as well as with our heart here. I really do want to stress that and while I think we are all in the grip of grief, really, as we saw the tragedy unfolding on our television screens, the responsibility of government, the responsibility of prime ministers in particular is to act in a measured and considered way – and I didn’t want to rush into something before receiving advice.”
Earlier today speaking from Geneva, the Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton said he couldn’t disclose the exact policy but said it would make Australians ‘proud’.
“I think people will see it as a generous offering on behalf of the Australian public. And I think people will be proud of what the government’s proposing.”
The 12,000 additional refugees will be a one-off and persecuted minorities, women and children and families will be prioritised and there will be no religious prerequisite for the intake.
“The government is also announcing that we will directly pay for the support of 240,000 displaced people in countries neighbouring Syria and Iraq through the UNHCR and other agencies,” the Prime Minister said. “This additional direct assistance will deliver food and blankets and other emergency supplies for the coming winter and is expected to cost $44m – bringing to $230m our total humanitarian contribution to the Syria/Iraq conflict.”
The Prime Minister has confirmed Australia will extend its military engagement in Syria.
“The government has also decided to extend Australia’s current air strikes against Daesh in Iraq to Daesh targets in Syria as well,” Tony Abbott told the gathered national press. “There can be no stability and no end to the persecution and suffering in the Middle East until the Daesh death cult is degraded and ultimately destroyed.”
That’s what our armed forces are doing in Iraq and we need to do it in Syria too.
Are you pleased with the Government’s announcement?