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Australia urged to increase refugee intake

26 September 20170 comments

Australia has been urged to increase its refugee intake as global humanitarian crises ramp up and new threats to stability in Africa and Asia are identified.

World Vision Australia has called for Australia to increase its regular refugee intake to 42,000 people, saying such a number represents “nothing more than our fair share”.

The call came last week marking two years since the Australian Government announced it would allow an emergency intake of an extra 12,000 Syrian refugees in response to the ongoing crisis affecting the Middle Eastern nation.

Meanwhile the Greens Party has called on the government to take in 20,000 of the Rohingya refugees who have fled rapidly worsening bloodshed in Myanmar.

World Vision director of policy and advocacy at World Vision Susan Anderson said that two years on, the fighting continues in Syria and a further six million people have been displaced globally.

“The special intake demonstrated that we can do more,” Ms Anderson said.

“We call on the Government to increase our regular annual intake to 42,000 people – which is nothing more than our fair share, given that developing countries are currently hosting more than 90 per cent of the world’s 65.6 million displaced people.”

Ms Anderson said that with climate change, famine and ongoing conflict driving populations out of their homelands, the crisis wouldn’t end any time soon.

“In Australia we have a proud history of helping our neighbours when disasters hit but our relationship to refugees has been poisoned by domestic political concerns,” Ms Anderson said. “We urgently need to re-frame this debate.”

She said becoming a refugee “is always a last resort”. “Imagine being forced to turn your back on everything you know, to walk away from your dreams and to abandon your home. Australia can be a new home to more people in that situation. We’ve already shown that we can do it!”

UNHCR figures show that the number of people displaced from their homes had increased to 65.6 million at the end of 2016.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced late last year that Australia would permanently boost its annual refugee intake from 13,750 in 2015-16 to 18,750 by 2018-2019.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale says Australia should organise an emergency intake of Rohingyas similar to the Syria program launched two years ago.

Writing to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton at the weekend, Senator Di Natale said the state-led persecution of Rohingya people in Myanmar’s Rakhine state was escalating, with entire villages being destroyed.

Aid organisations are warning of a looming humanitarian crisis, with flood-ravaged neighbouring Bangladesh currently bearing much of the Rohingya refugee burden. The United Nations says nearly 300,000 people have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh in recent weeks.

“We write to you with deep concern about the crisis in Myanmar and the unprecedented levels of forcible displacement we are seeing,” Senator Di Natale and his immigration spokesman Nick McKim said in the letter to Mr Turnbull and Mr Dutton.

“We call on you to immediately commit a further 20,000 permanent humanitarian visas for Rohingya refugees this year. This is not without precedent, with conflicts in Syria previously triggering this kind of emergency intake by Australia in 2015,” the letter said.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist