Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sent immigration minister Peter Dutton to the United Nations, to ask what more Australia can do for Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing their war torn regions.
Mr Abbott announced the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection will travel to Geneva on Sunday night for talks with the UNHCR.
However this does not mean Australia will increase its refugee intake overall. The Government will also consider giving more funding to the UNHCR to assist in the Middle East refugee crisis.
“We are proposing to take more people from this region as part of our very substantial commitment to the UNHCR,” Mr Abbott told a press conference in Canberra.
“We are disposed to take more people from that troubled region under our refugee humanitarian program and we are open to providing more financial assistance.”
He said the focus would be on “families and women and children, especially of persecuted minorities, who have sought refuge in camps neighbouring Syria and Iraq”.
Mr Abbott said the Government was also considering further funding for humanitarian assistance to those seeking help in refugee camps.
“Australia, as always, will step up to the plate. We always do when there is a problem in the world,” Mr Abbott said.
Mr Abbott has been urged to increase Australia’s refugee intake after photos of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi on a Turkish beach shocked the world and put a human face to the dangers refugees risk trying to reach safety.
Last financial year Australia settled more than 4,400 people from Syria and Iraq, Mr Abbott said, adding that Australia’s total intake will increase from 13,750 currently, to 18,750 by 2018.
Earlier on Sunday Trade Minister Andrew Robb told Insiders on ABC that Australia’s refugee policy on Syria and Iraq was under review.
NSW Premier Mike Baird urged Mr Abbott via Facebook to take more refugees from Syria and Iraq on Saturday.
– with ABC