September, 9th, 2015, former Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott committed Australia to resettling 12,000 refugees from the Syrian and Iraq conflict. On year one, however, only 3,500 refugees have been resettled and Australia is being criticized over “hollow promises” by multiple human rights groups.
The figures have been compared to Canada’s intake which shows a drastic contrast. The Guardian Australia reports that the Canadian government, between November 2015 and February 2016, settled 25,000 Syrian refugees and has pledged to “make every effort” to finalise all privately sponsored applications received before April this year, by early 2017 at the latest.
World Vision Australia’s chief executive Tim Costello stated, “When Tony Abbott promised to take 12,000 more refugees, he said it would reflect ‘Australia’s proud history as a country with a generous heart’ But there is a point at which a promise begins to look hollow when it is not honoured, and Australia has reached that point.”
Amnesty International Australia’s National Director Claire Mallinson said: “As the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, Australia must get on with fulfilling the promise we made to provide people with a safe place to settle. Every day that Minister Dutton fails to meet his commitment to settle the 12,000 people from Syria and Iraq is another day they spend without hope of a peaceful and safe life.”
Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, has responded to these critics claiming that the process is slower due to the Australian governments more rigid checks. “The scrutiny that we apply is greater than Canada there’s no question about that … because we want to make sure we aren’t bringing people into the country that would seek to do us harm.”
In a media release on September 8th, the Immigration Department announced that “As of 2 September, 6678 visas have been issued and 3532 of these people have settled in Australia. Another 6293 people have been interviewed and assessed as meeting threshold requirements for a visa. These people are awaiting the outcome of health, character and security checks.”
The faith in Dutton’s and the Immigration departments promises are declining. The lack of the government’s transparency was displayed with the release of the Nauru files and as Save the Children Chief Executive Paul Ronalds has previously stated, “Australians deserve transparent information about how many refugees have reached safety on our shores, and what the timeline is to settle all 12,000 people. Australians need to be assured that we’re doing what we said we would – urgently providing a place of welcome and safety for those who so desperately need it.”
For further reading:
Amnesty International – Aid and human rights agencies condemn slow pace on 12,000 refugees promise: //www.amnesty.org.au/news/comments/42454/
Canada’s #WelcomeRefugees Web Site: //www.cic.gc.ca/english/refugees/welcome/
Immigration Department’s Media Release: //www.minister.border.gov.au/peterdutton/2016/Pages/syrian-iraqi-intake-boosts-resettlement.aspx
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