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NFPs Welcome Government Intake of Syrian Refugees

10 September 2015 at 10:20 am
Ellie Cooper
Australia’s major refugee advocacy groups have welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement that Australia will resettle an extra 12,000 Syrian refugees but said more could be done.

Ellie Cooper | 10 September 2015 at 10:20 am


NFPs Welcome Government Intake of Syrian Refugees
10 September 2015 at 10:20 am

Australia’s major refugee advocacy groups have welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement that Australia will resettle an extra 12,000 Syrian refugees but said more could be done.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the Government will also dedicate an extra $44 million in humanitarian funding to help alleviate the crisis while expanding airstrikes into Syria.

Oxfam Acting CEO, Pam Anders said the announcement reflected the strong public sentiment on the issue but was disappointed Federal Government hadn’t gone further.

“Given this country’s prosperity, as one of the richest nations on earth, we can and must do more,” Anders said.

“When you look at the scale of the problem, with 60 million people forcibly displaced from their homes globally, you can’t help but be struck by the fact that we need to do everything we possibly can to help.

“This is a welcome increase to our refugee intake, however rather than being a one-off response, this should be the norm.”

Earlier this week the Oxfam, World Vision and Save the Children urged the Government to take in an additional 30,000 refugees in an advertisement in The Australian newspaper.

World Vision called the announcement “a first step in the right direction”. CEO Tim Costello said given the extent of the crisis the decision was likely to need to be revisited soon.

“The world is facing the worst refugee crisis since World War II so while the Government’s decision is progress, Australia could still play a much more significant role in alleviating the problem,” Costello said.

“As the past few days have shown, Australians have opened their hearts to the plight of Syrians fleeing the conflict that has engulfed their homeland. Like all Australians, I welcome the Government’s announcement but I also believe that most Australians believe we need to be doing more.

“Even with the announcement of new funding, Australia still has a long way to go to meet its $144 million fair share of the global Syrian appeal.”

The Refugee Council of Australia also referred to the Government’s announcement as a “first step”.

“We applaud the leadership of the Prime Minister on acting so promptly once community concern became apparent, for the people fleeing conflict and persecution in Syria,” President Phil Glendenning said.

“We want to also applaud the Australian community who have demanded that our Government act to assist the Syrian’s who are in such great need. In recent days our office has been inundated with offers of support from the general public to assist in whatever way they are able.

“Allowing protection for 12,000 refugees is an important first step and shows to the world that Australia is willing to support those who are in great need.”

Glendenning said Australia should prioritise the most vulnerable for resettlement regardless of their ethnicity, gender or religion.

“We also welcome the decision by the Government to continue to the long held practice of choosing those who are in the greatest need of urgent protection” he said.

UNICEF Australia urged the Government not to limit its intake to people from camps outside of Syria, saying many refugees are living in host communities or informal tented settlements.

“UNICEF knows that the vast majority of people who have fled conflict in Syria are not in camps, but living in host communities,” Chief Technical Officer, Amy Lamoin said.

“Their issues are compounded by the fact they cannot work, and many are effectively compelled to commit their children to work or find other, often dangerous solutions to meet ongoing and rising costs.”  

St Vincent de Paul Society CEO, Dr John Falzon also said he hopes the Government increases the humanitarian refugee intake.

“We continue to believe that we can do more and we hope the government will consider expanding on this number,” Dr Falzon said.

“We also hope that religion will not be used to discriminate against people seeking refuge. People who are persecuted need our protection, not our prejudices. Religion is irrelevant here. All that matters is their desperate need for refuge.”

The Australian Red Cross said the Government’s provisions, while limited, will still make a significant impact.

“There are more than four million Syrians displaced and in need of massive immediate support in surrounding Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. More will no doubt be needed shortly, but $44 million now will help this very vulnerable group enormously,” Director of Services and International Operations, Michael Raper said.

Refugee and migrant settlement agency AMES Australia CEO Cath Scarth said Australia is well placed to accept greater refugee numbers.

“Australia has the infrastructure and capacity to welcome these people who are fleeing an extraordinarily deadly and vicious conflict,” Scarth said.

“The current crisis in the Middle East and the refugee diaspora it has sparked is unprecedented since the end of World War II.

“It has become clear in recent days that there is broad community support for this move and AMES Australia stands ready to bring to bear its expertise and long experience in settling refugees to help this group of people find their feet and settle into our communities here in Australia.”

GetUp advocacy group has put the Prime Minister’s change of heart came down to the tens of thousands of Australians who gathered to demand the Government welcome refugees.

"Australians from all walks of life had sent a clear message to all political parties, demanding a more compassionate and considered response to refugees from Syria and other nations in crisis. Today we congratulate the Government for listening," Acting National Director, Paul Oosting said.

"The announcement… shows what we as a community can achieve when we stand up for what we believe in and defend the values of fair go that we hold so dear.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told Parliament that the Labor party welcomed Abbott’s decision and made no mention of whether the 12,000 figure fell short of expectation.

“We do support and welcome the Government's move as an expression of the generous, decent and open hearted Australia that we all love and serve,” Shorten said.  

“Labor welcomes this decision and I know that Australia will welcome these refugees.

“The lesson of our modern history is that every time we've reached out a caring arm to the victims of persecution, it is our nation which has been enlarged and enriched.”

More than four million Syrian refugees are currently being hosted in neighbouring countries who are struggling to meet their needs.

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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