Australia to take more Christian refugees fleeing Islamic State
Australia is ready to expand a special humanitarian program to accept more Christian refugees who are fleeing Islamic State as a crucial safeguard in the effort to take 12,000 asylum-seekers from Syria and Iraq.
The special program is not being capped as a share of the total intake and will operate as a counterweight to the key UN agency that helps nominate the refugees, addressing fears among church groups that Australia will not take enough genuinely persecuted minorities.
The approach will be used to make sure Australia gives permanent settlement to Christians and Kurds and that the greatest help goes to women and children, even if the UN High Commissioner for Refugees fails to identify the most suitable candidates for resettlement.
But any move to increase the Syrian intake presents Malcolm Turnbull with huge political risks, with a special Newspoll conducted at the weekend revealing that only 22 per cent of Australians support taking more than the 12,000 already announced.
Today’s poll shows that 44 per cent of Australians say the government should take fewer refugees from the war-torn Middle East while 27 per cent believe 12,000 to be the right number.
Newspoll also reveals that 41 per cent of respondents want the priority to be on taking Christian refugees while 52 per cent believe there should be equal consideration given to Christians and other religious and ethnic groups.
The Australian has been told the government will use the special humanitarian program to make sure the intake does not match the experience in Europe, where young Muslim men figure strongly in the flow of millions of asylum-seekers across land borders.
The government is already taking nominations from groups within Australia to identify Iraqi Christians who should be given priority in the humanitarian program, bypassing the UNHCR process.
The Weekend Australian revealed concerns of church leaders, including Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher, over the anxiety in the community at a recent decision that appeared to require the UNHCR to register the refugees.
In a bid to reassure the community, government officials confirmed yesterday that the special humanitarian program would run in parallel with the UNHCR registration and would ensure the selection of Christians and others.
While the total intake will be 12,000, there is no cap on the number that can be accepted in the special humanitarian program or the UNHCR registrations, with the proportion from each being up to the government.
The Prime Minister insisted yesterday that the focus of the intake would be on persecuted minorities such as Christians, given these groups had the least chance of returning to their homes in a “reset order” in Iraq and Syria.
“I’ve been concerned for some time, and have been very vocal about my concern, for the persecuted minorities in the Middle East, prominent among whom of course are the Christian communities,” Mr Turnbull said.
“Regrettably, the likely consequence of these wars in the Middle East will be a reset order in which there will be a much less welcoming environment for Christians.
“The regimes in Iraq and Syria, tyrannies though they were, were secular tyrannies — that is to say Christians were not persecuted by reason of being Christians, as a general rule.
“The tenor of the times is much less welcoming to minorities like Christians and that is why the focus of the 12,000 intake is on persecuted minorities and women and children.”
Speaking during a break in the East Asia Summit in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur yesterday, Mr Turnbull said “nothing has changed” from the cabinet decision under Tony Abbott to accept 12,000 refugees and to put a priority on persecuted minorities, women and children. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton also said there had been no change to the program announced months ago.
“Our focus has always been on the most persecuted minorities, women and children,” he said.
“The caseload will be a mixture of UNHCR referrals and special humanitarian program referrals. We will have the ultimate say in who we bring into the country.”
If the UNHCR did not identify asylum-seekers that met the government’s test of being in a persecuted minority, the government had the right to reject nominations, officials said yesterday.
If the UNHCR’s registrations show a dearth of candidates from persecuted minorities, the government will be able to take in even more in the special humanitarian program to ensure the objective is met. Those considered to be persecuted minorities include Christians such as Assyrians, Chaldeans and Mandaeans. The intake could also include Yazidis, Zoroastrians and Kurds.
Scott Morrison has said he expected most of the 12,000 to be Christians because they were at the “most long-term risk” in the Middle East.
But Sydney Islamic community leader Ahmed Kilani had said: “You don’t ask a drowning person what your religion is before you save them.”
The Newspoll shows a preference among many Australians for the special refugee places to go to Christians.
It reveals 41 per cent believe the priority should be for Christians. Another 52 per cent believe there should be equal consideration given to Christians and other religious and ethnic groups when deciding which refugees will be accepted.
Among Coalition voters, it is the reverse, with 54 per cent saying priority should go to Christians and 41 per cent backing equal consideration. Only 29 per cent of Labor voters and 17 per cent of Greens supporters say Christians should be given priority.
Coalition voters are the most opposed to an increase, with only 14 per cent in favour of taking more, 48 per cent saying it should be fewer and 33 per cent happy with the existing plan.
Among Labor voters, 29 per cent want to take more refugees while 40 per cent say it should be fewer. The overwhelming support for more refugees comes from Greens voters, where 52 per cent want to increase the intake and 19 per cent want it reduced.
Additional reporting: Jared Owen
The Australian people have already made it quite clear that they accept the humanitarian intake of 12,000 refugees from Syria, provided, as was promised by our elected leaders, that those people were from the population of persecuted minorities in that region.
What could be any clearer than that?
Now, we have all and sundry ministers coming out and excusing the fact that we are now going to get a whopping great stack of muslims in that quota.
I don’t know how to say this any more politely than this:
The Australian people, by an overwhelming majority, simply do not want any further muslim immigration to this country, and with good reason. If Malcolm and the rest of his simpering cabinet ministers do not get this, then they will find be voted out or find themselves faced with a large number of ALA senate members following the next election.
Yes, but who do we vote for? The liberals are bad, labor is worse and the greens are mad!
@Brett You are so right, but if they are voted out, who would be voted in? I hate to think.
So the only defence is to keep them out.
Representatives of the Muslim Community should not try to exert any influence on the government – be appreciative for the support you have already received from Australia and let the government of the day make the right decision and offer hope to the most persecuted.
But it’s Muslims verses Muslims : who is right and who is wrong? If they are not fighting with neighboring countries it is Sunnis V Shia or civilians V their oppressive dictator
The Russians are backing Assad, the civilians don’t want Assad as their leader so maybe if the Russians agree Assad should step down then maybe the civilians would be happy. Then the Syrians could start fight IS
I don’t think anyone is suggesting we sit down and negotiate with IS.
Shouldn’t that be confine the program to Christians?
Australia is not a free-for-all, Malcolm.
Did everyone notice the “Thank You” letter issued by that first refugee family (comprised of husband, wife & 3 kids) made zero mention of his wife? It was issued only on behalf of him & his kids. (See last Tuesday’s article in The Australian + comments).
Oh yes, that Muslim family will assimilate SO well in this country of equal rights, where women aren’t chattels or slaves!
Note that in 2012-13 the total number admitted under the Humanitarian Program (includes refugees) was 20,019. What is the expected intake for 2015-16?
Confusion helps people lie with statistics. Note also that in next year’s census, it is not compulsory to answer the question on religion.
It was Tony Abbott’s stupid “captain’s call” to allow in 12,000 Syrian refugees that created this mess for the present government. As US officials have pointed out, it is nigh on impossible to properly vet Syrian refugees because this war-torn nation has few criminal or terrorist databases to check against.
Turnbull, well before he became leader, has been consistently saying that Syrian refugees should be from persecuted minorities who would probably be left with no homeland in Syria.
Hopefully the “Special Program” is the source of virtually the whole 12,000.
Still, as Syria’s Christians on the whole support Assad, our efforts in protecting persecuted minorities would probably be better spent in supporting the Russians in their efforts to stabilise the Assad regime.
Assad is certainly not the monster he is portrayed to be. He’s a lot better than the rulers of Islamic State or, for that matter, Saudi Arabia.
We should do what P.M. John Howard stated . We choose who comes to this country. U.N. get lost.
You don’t pull a crocodile on to your boat either.
- And do away with state school teachers because 4.5 million kids were molested in non catholic State schools in USA [no priest teachers!] ??
- and ban marriage as most child abuse occurs in families.???
Oh yes you do Mr Kilani because after you rescue that person, they may well want to commit terrorist acts upon your community because the Quran tells them to.
Not one of the terrorists in the two most recent Paris atrocities was Christian.
They were all Muslim.
But politicians are politicians…….only time will tell…..
I have lived in japan and am married to a Japanese – Little or no violence, zero graffiti, perfectly clean streets, no welfare payments (unless your insured), the friendliest people on the planet, no spouting religious rubbish, little sign of poverty, great food and beer etc. etc.
Last time I was in Japan (for a month), I saw one policeman – controlling traffic when some lights went down.
The only Muslims I saw were some Turkish kebab vendors in Tokyo. They have a year in Japan before they have to return to Turkey to renew there work visa. First sign of trouble and you are OUT never to return….That goes for any foreigner (Gigin)
Get with the programme Turnbull.
Well Japan is not the only country to tell the UN to get stuffed.
“Tony Abbott lashes United Nations report on Australia’s treatment of … think Australians are sick of being lectured to by the United Nations”, (News.com)
All we want now is for Turnbull follow suit……………..
What on earth has Tunbull got to do with the present state of our immigration program?
The parameters were set long before he entered parliament, as was most of the Muslim population in the country. Besides this, the PM is responding to the wishes of the voting public of Australia, not Japan.
“What on earth has Tunbull got to do with the present state of our immigration program?The parameters were set long before he entered parliament.”
Tosh. He can decide who comes to our country with one sentence. Set Parameters?