Immigration minister Peter Dutton says accepting more refugees would see them taking Australian jobs or ending up on social welfare because they are illiterate.
The minister was on Sky News discussing a proposal by the Greens to increase Australia’s refugee intake by 50,000.
Last year the government said it would take an additional 12,000 refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq, on top of the existing program of 13,750 for 2015-2016.
But taking any more would create problems for the country, the minister argued on Sky News.
“For many people they won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English. This is the difficulty,” Dutton said.
“These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that. For many of them that would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and the rest of it so there would be huge cost and there’s no sense in sugar-coating that, that’s the scenario.”
Greens immigration spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young called his comments “nasty and steeped purely in xenophobia”.
“These are vile and nasty and what it does is exposes the Liberal Party’s current thinking on people who come to our country seeking protection,” she said.
Former Labor immigration minister Chris Bowen told ABC’s Radio National said the minister should head to Cabramatta in Sydney’s west, where the children of refugees were excelling in schools and the parents had opened successful small businesses.
“There are hundreds of thousands of refugees in Australia who’ve worked hard, who’ve educated themselves and their children and they will be shaking their heads at their minister today, in disgust frankly,” he said.
Foreign minister Julie Bishop also weighed in on the issue, telling ABC Radio’s AM program that her colleague was pointing out the additional financial burden refugees can be for taxpayers.
A study of Australian refugees found that for the first 15 to 20 years after resettlement, they paid less tax than they received in benefits.
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