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Australia announces refugee commitments at UN Summit

28 September 20160 comments

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced Australia’s refugee intake will be maintained at 18,750 and an extra $130 million over three years will go to support peace building and assistance to refugees, forcibly displaced communities and host countries.

The Prime Minister told US President Barack Obama and other leaders at an invitation-only high-level summit on refugees and migration in New York his government would lift the intake from 14,000 to 18,750 from mid-2018, and keep it at that level.

Australia will also take part in a US-led program to resettle Central American refugees now in a resettlement centre in Costa Rica.


Malcolm Turnbull

The extra $130 million to support peace initiatives builds on the already-announced $220 million commitment to Syria and neighbouring countries.

Oxfam welcomed the overall strategy but chief executive Helen Szoke is disappointed there is little actual increase to Australia’s humanitarian intake.

“It is a step in the right direction but not a new announcement,” Dr Szoke said.

With an estimated 65 million people displaced worldwide, Oxfam says the intake should be lifted to at least 30,000 by 2018/19 and 42,000 by 2020/21.

Dr Szoke said the Australian government must resettle the 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees they agreed to take in a year ago by the first quarter of 2017.

Save the Children said Australia was more than able to take in extra refugees.

“Swiftly increasing Australia’s humanitarian intake to 30,000 places by 2018/19 would have been a much better response to the current scale of the crisis and a truer reflection of Australia’s social and economic capacity to resettle refugees,” chief executive Paul Ronalds said.

In his speech, Mr Turnbull urged world leaders to do more to address the underlying causes of displacement, including providing more assistance in home countries.
Australia’s stopping of asylum seeker boats paved the way for one of the world’s most generous humanitarian systems, he said.

“Australians support these actions because they have confidence that our migration system is well managed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Turnbull defended his government’s tough asylum policies at the United Nations refugee summit in New York in the face of activists’ demands that Australia close its controversial migrant camps in the South Pacific.

The United Nations General Assembly is looking to find a better way to help more than 65 million people who are displaced around the world.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told delegates his country’s strict border control measures have created an orderly process for accepting asylum seekers.

The government believes the offshore policy has deterred other migrants from making the hazardous sea crossing to Australia from countries such as Indonesia.

Turnbull said the strict approach is working.

“The need to build community support for migration has never been clearer. Australia’s experience bears this out,” he said.

“Addressing irregular migration through secure borders has been essential in creating the confidence that the government can manage migration in a way that mitigates risk and focuses humanitarian assistance on those who need it most. This has had a direct impact on our ability to provide generous and effective support to refugees,” Mr Turnbull said.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist