The nation’s leading humanitarian and human rights organisations are calling on the Australian Government to resettle the promised 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq by the first quarter of 2017.
It’s a year today since the Government made the pledge to grant an additional 12,000 Syrians and Iraqis a permanent visa in response to an outpouring of public support following the photos of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up dead on a Turkish beach.
Plan International Australia Chief Executive Officer Ian Wishart said in Syria, half the pre-conflict population of 22 million Syrians have fled their homes in the past five years and more than 13.5 million people are in need of help.
“We’re in the midst of the largest refugee crisis in living memory. Australia needs to shoulder its fair share of the global responsibility for refugees. The children of Syria have suffered enough.”
World Vision Australia Chief Executive Tim Costello said it was incomprehensible that Australia had been able to resettle only a tiny fraction of the special intake of 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the last year.
“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’,” Mr Costello said. “But there is a point at which a promise begins to look hollow when it is not honoured and Australia has reached that point.”
Save the Children Chief Executive Paul Ronalds said a year ago the Australian Government opened its arms to the displaced people of Syria and Iraq with an offer of refuge and protection, but it hadn’t finished the job.
“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.”
Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Helen Szoke said Australia’s efforts are lagging well behind other wealthy nations.
“Canada completed security checks and settled 25,000 people in just four months. We know millions of ordinary men, women and children have been forced to flee their homes in a desperate search for protection and are in dire need of assistance. We urgently need to help as many as we can.”
CARE Australia’s acting-Chief Executive Louise Gray said: “The Australian Government made a commitment and must stick to it. This is a global humanitarian crisis and it demands a global response. People’s lives depend on it.”
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 in a war torn country without hope of a peaceful and safe life.”