PM VOWS TO GIVE REFUGE
Pressure grows for one-off increase to migrant numbers
AUSTRALIA could fasttrack a planned increase in refugee places to help desperate Syrians fleeing their war-ravaged homeland.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Parliament yesterday that Australia “can and must do more” to address the “humanitarian catastrophe” as millions of displaced Syrians seek refuge.
“When the world is in trouble, Australia responds,” Mr Abbott said.
“It is the Government’s firm intention to take a significant number of people from Syria this year. We will give people refuge.” Cabinet ministers last night discussed options for boosting the 4500 refugees Australia has taken from Syria and northern Iraq in the past year.
One option is to fast-track an increase in Australia’s total annual refugee intake from 13,750 to 18,750 sooner than the currently planned 2018.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called for 10,000 extra Syrian refugees to be allowed into Australia and for a $100 million boost to foreign aid.
Mr Abbott has talked down the likelihood of a oneoff intake of refugees, saying he wanted the increase to come from within Australia’s existing intake.
The Courier-Mail revealed yesterday that Immigration Peter Dutton would discuss taking extra refugees under a temporary “safe haven” visa in talks with the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva.
The plan, based on the short-term visas offered to 4000 refugees from Kosovo by the Howard government in 1999, could see refugees forced to return home in the future.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Government should consider the Kosovo model in its response to the Syria crisis.
“Maybe what John Howard did in 1999 with the Kosovars could be a bit of a guide for us,” Mr Frydenberg said.
But Malcolm Turnbull warned minorities including Christians might not be able to return to Syria if Islamic extremists were in control.
“When ... the violence subsides, will there be a home for them?” Mr Turnbull said of Syria’s religious minorities.
Mr Abbott said he expected to decide on a plan within t the next two days but it might b be revised in the future.
Premier Annastacia Pala aszczuk joined other state le leaders in backing a rise in th the refugee intake.
“As Australia’s third-larg-
est state, Queensland will accept its fair share of any oneoff refugee intake, and we will work out that number in consultation with the Federal Government,” she said.
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said his state could host about 800 Syrian refugees in an old asylum seeker detention centre in the Adelaide Hills if the Government accepted Labor’s target of 10,000 across Australia.
West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said his state could host an extra 1000 refu- gees while the NSW, Victorian and Tasmanian governments have also suggested they could share the cost of housing extra migrants. The Government’s Nation
al Security Committee of Cabinet is set to today sign off on Australia taking part in air raids on Syria.
Mr Abbott said Australia could “extend our air strikes into Syria” on the basis of “collective self-defence of Iraq”.
It comes as an influx of migrants that saw more than 14,000 people flow into Austria from Hungary over the weekend, appears to have ebbed, at least for now.
Austrian police say 260 migrants crossed and left by train for Vienna, with no more entering since.
Crowds of well-wishers turned out in Germany to welcome thousands of exhausted migrants at train stations.
The UN’s refugee chief said the crisis could be “manageable” if European countries all pulled their weight and agreed on a common approach.
Queensland will accept its fair share of any one-off refugee intake
PREMIER ANNASTACIA PALASZCZUK We stand ready to stump up and to step up. To provide a second chance in life to those who ... need our outstretched hand of friendship
VICTORIA PREMIER DANIEL ANDREWS If there’s a moral imperative to bomb Syria, then there’s a moral imperative for us to provide safe haven for those peoplepp affected
SA PREMIER JAY WEATHERILL