The federal government has announced that it will accept an extra 12,000 Syrian refugees into Australia.
This will increase the current humanitarian intake of 13,750 people to 25,750. All refugees will be offered permanent visas.
Prime minister Tony Abbott said the government’s focus for these permanent resettlement places will go to those who are the most in need.
“The women, children and families of persecuted minorities who have sought refuge from the conflict in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey,” he said.
Government officials will be dispatched to the region to identify potential candidates. Abbott said like others who come to out country, the refugees will be subject to health and character checks.
“This is a decision that is firmly in Australia’s national interest. It reflects the Government’s steadfast commitment to keeping Australians safe from terrorism, preventing the spread of violent extremism to our shores and responding to a deepening humanitarian crisis.
“We have to act with our heads as well as hearts. We must stand against those who wish to destroy life and build a terrorist state.”
Along with the increased intake the government said Australia will provide humanitarian support to more than 240,000 Syrian and Iraqi people who have been forced to flee their homes through agencies such as UNHCR. This is expected to cost $44 million.
“With this additional commitment, Australia’s contribution to help address the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq will be around $230 million since 2011.”
Abbott also announced that in response to US president Barack Obama’s requests, the government has decided to extend Australia’s air strikes against Daesh into Syria.
“This marks the next phase of Australia’s contribution to the international coalition effort to disrupt, degrade and ultimately defeat the Daesh death cult,” he said.
“The Daesh death cult does not respect borders and threatens the security of Iraq and the international community from its safe havens in Syria.”
The air task group being sent to the Middle East will include six F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport and an E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft.
Australia joins a number of other nations – including the United States, Canada, Arab countries and Turkey – which are already contributing to the effort against Daesh in Syria.
The revised number follows a push from the Opposition to take 10,000 Syrian refugees as a one-off increase. Greens leader Richard Di Natale called for an immediate intake of 20,000 refugees and a $150 million donation to the UN refugee agency. While three separate aid groups called on the government to take in 30,000.
The flood of refugees fleeing Syria has become an enormous political challenge in Europe, with countries scrambling to make decisions on how to manage the flow of people crossing borders in search of asylum.
German officials this week said they could take around 500,000 each year over the coming years. Germany expects to take in 800,000 refugees to the country by the end of this year.
Here’s a quick look at how the crisis stacks up in numbers at the moment, looking at the number of pending asylum applications in each of the 28 European Union nations, as of June.
See more on Europe’s position here.
There has been a strong push within Coalition ranks over recent days to prioritise Syria’s Christian refugees in any intake to Australia.
However politicians such as NSW premier Mike Baird have said Australia should help as much as it can. He says: “a life is a life”, Christians and Muslims should all be welcome.
Immigration minister Peter Dutton, who has been in discussions with European leaders about Australia’s role in resolving the crisis told ABC radio this morning that “people will be proud of what the government’s proposing”.
“I think people will see it as a generous offering on behalf of the Australian public… People will be impressed with Australia’s response. I’ve listened very closely to what the leaders have had to say here in Europe and I’ve taken that back to the Prime Minister, to the National Security Committee.
“I think it’ll be a generous announcement, both in terms of the dollar amount and the number of places that we’ll be able to provide.”
This week candlelight vigils were held across the country in a show of support and welcome to the Syrian people looking for refuge in Australia.
See photos of the events here.
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