In September 2015, in the wake of outrage over the drowning of Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced Australia would take in 12,000 extra refugees fleeing conflict in Iraq and Syria, and it would "move quickly".
This announcement to offer resettlement to these refugees was applauded by faith groups, refugees advocates, community organisations and many individuals, recognising the devastating crisis happening in Syria.
However, since that time very few refugees have actually been resettled in Australia, and there are grave concerns about the length of time taken to process and resettle the refugees from both Syria and Iraq.
At the time of writing (November 2016), Australia has settled just under one quarter of the 12,000 refugees from the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts. Canada, on the other hand, has welcomed more than 29,800 people since November 2015. The USA has resettled 10,000 and New Zealand has resettled all of the 200 Syrian refugees it promised to resettle. There has been no suggestion that Canada’s, the USA or New Zealand’s security screening has been less than adequate.
In February 2016, Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia, said: “Our government is dragging its feet while the rest of the world is acting much more quickly to meet their promises to resettle Syrian and Iraqi refugees and allow them to start to rebuild their lives.”
Mr Dutton, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, has commented that “Australia would not rush the processing of any referrals”. The Refugee Council of Australia has responded, stating: “It is a shame for all concerned that the Australian resettlement program is so bogged down in bureaucratic delays, when the governments of Canada and New Zealand have proven that it is possible to move much more swiftly”.
We know there is no shortage of appropriate applications. Thousands were received from UNHCR and through relatives and communities in Australia in the three months following the Government’s announcement in September last year.
Since the conflict began in early 2011 more than 10 million people have been affected. The ramifications of inaction are significant; as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres has stressed, “This conflict has not only caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades, but it is also the biggest threat to global peace and security the world has seen in a long time.”
This petition will be sent to the Prime Minister The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP and the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection The Hon. Peter Dutton MP.
The ramifications of inaction are significant as the Syrian conflict is one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades.