The refugee crisis in Europe is becoming an “opportunistic cycle” that is masking the true humanitarian need of persecuted Syrians, Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi believes.
During debate on a Senate motion on Syrian refugees, Senator Bernardi accused Greens leader Richard Di Natale of using the image of a drowned Syrian toddler to evoke emotion.
Senator Bernardi said the boy’s death was not related to the humanitarian crisis in Syria because the family had been living in Turkey for years and were in no danger.
“The father sent them on that boat so the father could get dental treatment,” he told the Senate on Monday.
Senator Bernardi said Australia needed to maintain a measured humanitarian program, and already had the largest intake per capita in the world.
He is concerned about a growing trade in fake Syrian passports and Pakistanis ditching their documents and pretending to be from the war-ravaged country.
“Of course there is a problem, but you can not just open your borders and allow any number of people come through without the checks,” he said.
“Many of these people have been very safe, working and housed in places like Turkey for years.”
Senator Bernardi said the problem should also be shouldered by Middle Eastern countries.
“This seems to me to be becoming an opportunistic cycle which is masking the true humanitarian need which is the responsibility of western nations,” he said.
Senator Di Natale earlier said the boy had become the human face of the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and implored the government to accept an additional 20,000 refugees.
He labelled Prime Minister Tony Abbott a coward and said the government would rather drop bombs on Syrians than pay attention to the plight of people who needed humanitarian assistance.
The Greens senator withdrew that comment after objection from Senator Bernardi.
The government is expected to decide within days whether to accept an official request from the United States to expand Australian air operations from Iraq into Syria to help combat Islamic State.
Mr Abbott has announced Australia would take more Syrian refugees within the existing humanitarian intake quota.