Australian PM under pressure to boost annual refugee intake

Australian Prime Minister urged to increase total refugee intake in wake of the European migrant crisis

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott delivers a lecture on ''Our Common Challenges: Strengthening Security in the Region'' in Singapore in this file photo taken on June 29, 2015.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is being pushed to increase the country’s total refugee quota, in light of the European migration crisis.

PM Abbott announced on Sunday that they will take in more Syrian and Iraqi refugees, however he ruled out an overall increase in numbers 

The members of his party, including state premiers, called on him to do more to solve the growing humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq.   

Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg offered Kosovo Model, which was formed by former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, for housing refugees who had to leave behind their country as the Kosovo War erupted in the late 1990s.

According to the model, the country could provide temporary housing for Syrian and Iraqi asylum seekers until the countries were politically stable again.

“There is a very good case here for a specific response to what we are seeing from those tragic pictures in Europe,” Frydenberg told Sky News on Monday.

“Maybe what John Howard did in 1999 with the Kosovars could be a bit of a guide for us. He took 4,000 at that time. Some of those went home, but he did provide humanitarian response and shelter for those people who are fleeing persecution,” he added.  

The country’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also shared the same idea with Frydenberg, saying to the reporters that “I actually spoke about the Kosovo matter yesterday and said that’s something we should consider and that’s something that I will be raising with other foreign ministers – whether that’s an international response that would work in these circumstances – we’ll certainly take advice on that.”

The Australian opposition wing also came to agree on vitality over doing more for the growing humanitarian crisis in war-torn Syria and Iraq.  

The leader of the Australian Labor Party Bill Shorten said that the government should spend an extra $A100m ($69m; £45.6m) for refugees as the Federal Opposition called for 10,000 additional places for them.

Australia already set to increase the existing annual number from 13,750 refugees to 18,000 by 2009.In July , In its national conference, Australian Labor Pary voted for boosting the annual intake to 27,000.

Syrian refugees consists 30% of the country’s total intake but the government promised to enhance number to 4,500 last year.   

“Australia has already taken 4,500 and, yes, we will do more,” Abbott said in a press conference on Monday,

“We will do more. Because this is an ongoing crisis but let’s not forget what we have already done and let’s not forget the comparative generosity that Australia has always shown in situations like this.” Mr. Abbott added.

“We have always been a country that shoulders its responsibilities, that pulls its weight globally. We take on a per capita basis more refugees than any other country on Earth through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. And we are going to build on that in the weeks and months ahead. There will be a very strong humanitarian response from Australia,” he continued his words.  

Mr Abbott also pointed out in the conference that if the flow of refugees by boats to his country could be stopped, Australia would describe the status of refugees properly.

“This is one of the dividends of stopping the boats. Because we have stopped the boats, it’s the Australian government which is now able to select people who come in under our refugee and humanitarian intake,” the prime minister said.

“Under the former government it was the people smugglers doing the selection,” he added.  

During the press conference, the Prime Minister was also asked about the refugee boy who drowned in the waters near the Turkish resort of Bodrum.

"No parent could fail to be moved by what we saw," he said.

"I have asked the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to go urgently to Geneva to talk to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on what more Australia can do to assist on the migration crisis that is being driven by the problems in the Middle East," he added.

TRTWorld and agencies