Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that Australia will welcome an additional 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq over the existing current allotment of 13,750. This comes days after the Prime Minister said that he would still be following the 13,750 cap and went under fire for not doing enough for the victims of the crisis.
Australia will also be participating in the airstrikes led by the US and will be offering additional funds for further refugee needs.
Refugee intake to be focused on women, children, and persecuted minorities
Instead of being a permanent increase, this will be considered as a one-time rise in the intake for the year. The chosen refugees will be granted permanent residency, with a special focus on women, children, and families that come from persecuted minorities.
Some of Abbott’s colleagues also called for priority to be given to Christians. To this, the prime minister says, “There are persecuted minorities that are Muslim, and there are persecuted minorities that are non-Muslim. Our focus is on the persecuted minorities who have been displaced and are very unlikely to be able to go back to their original homes.”
Labor also declares that the intake should be done without qualification or discrimination.
Additional funds to be given to the UN refugee agency
Aside from accepting more refugees into the country, the government will also be giving an additional AUD44M to the UN to support around 240,000 displaced refugees around Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan. This funding will cover urgent needs like clean drinking water, food, shelter, and support for girls and women.
This financial support is very timely according to foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, as the northern hemisphere winter will be coming soon.
With the additional funds, the total humanitarian aid from Australia would increase to AUD230M since 2011. The entire amount has gone to the ongoing Syria and Iraq conflicts.
Doubts raised over proposed airstrikes
As much as different quarters are supporting the sudden increase in refugee intake and the additional financial aid that Australia is extending, doubts are raised over the participation of Australian troops in the upcoming airstrikes.
According to Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, this move proves to be reckless, illegal and dangerous. Unlike Iraq, Syria has not asked for international help to fight the Islamic State (IS). He added that the strikes are not going to be categorized as ‘collective self-defence’ as the government claims.
Abbott then emphasized that they are targeting the Isis in general, and this includes the ones found in Syria. “We cannot defeat Daesh in Iraq without defeating Daesh in Syria, too. I emphasise that our aircraft will be targeting Daesh, not the Assad regime,” he says.
Daesh is another term used for Isis.
Abbott also says that this measure is for Australia’s national interest simply because Daesh is considered as a major threat to the entire world.
Special thanks to GettyImages for the main image.