Abbott to announce new stance on refugees

By Kate Hassett

Abbott to announce new stance on refugees
Tony Abbott is expected to announce a change to refugee policy today - but is the Coalition's selection process dangerous?

The United Nations’ spokesperson, in charge of migration has appealed to the International community to start making serious changes to their refugee policies.

“We should have a European response as part of a global response,” UN special representative for migration and development, Peter Sutherland told reporters in Geneva.

“In 2015, UNHCR anticipates that approximately 400,000 new arrivals will seek international protection in Europe via the Mediterranean. In 2016 this number could reach 450,000 or more”

As such, governments around the world are slowly beginning to budge on strict refugee policies.

Earlier this week Tony Abbott announced  plans to reconsider the Coalition’s stance on refugees, promising a “considered and measured” approach to determining a number “appropriate for a country like Australia.”

Following this announcement, it has been revealed that the Federal government’s plan to introduce permanent protection to refugees may only extend to the most “persecuted minorities” or, Syrian Christians.

Whilst it has not been revealed how many refugees Australia will accept, the Coalition’s options may see an extension of their ‘quota’ by 5000, or further advance that number to 10,000 or more.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that the Coalition would be working closely with UNCHR to determine those who are most at risk.

“We partner with them, we provide them funding and then we say ‘we will focus on women and children and families of the persecuted minorites… Australia can say that, we can determine who will come.”

However, ministers like Malcolm Turnbull have joined Ms Bishop in arguing for the prioritisation of Syrian Christians and Yazidis, over Syrian Muslims, enraging the general public and extending anti-muslim rhetoric.

Leaders in the Islamic community have lambasted the government’s approach, crying poor judgment and dangerous decision making in distinguishing between refugees based on religion.

Ahmed Kilani, Sydney Islamic community leader, told SMH; “You don’t ask a drowning person what your religion is before you save them.”

“This kind of bigoted fear mongering from the Abbott government is a new tragic low. It’s a betrayal of the true Australian spirit. There are millions of people of all religions who have been displaced. This is the greatest human catastrophe in 70 years, yet we have a government that wants to play politics with this to appease the right wing constituents it has been cultivating”

“The government keeps saying it is worried about people being radicalised. What do you think young Muslims are going to think then they see who can come in and who can’t?”

This type of preferential treatment is playing with fire.

Groups like ‘Welcome to Australia’ have echoed Kilani’s fears, stating their disappointment in a selective policy that places preference on one group of people over others – based purely on religion.

Members of the Assyrian Aid Society, a Syrian Christian support group, have supported the preference.

“I don’t think you would meet any Syrian Christians in Australia who would say anything other than help them first, they are the target.”

When Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body was displayed across our various media channels, news feeds and collective consciousness, the world stopped.

But, within this exclusionary policy, Aylan – a Muslim boy – would not have made the cut. 

Maher Mughrabi in an op-ed for SMH, expressed disappointment, stating that it is impossible to determine who these children will grow up to be.

“What matters, it seems, is that we can now decide that Muslims are trouble and that if we walk into a burning house, we’ll save the others first. What do we know about the others? We know they’re not Muslims.”

So who are we to determine one person’s value over another? On one hand we are increasing our refugee intake, but on the other hand we are showing a predilection for one group of people that, despite their unquestionable refugee status, could potentially mean that thousands of men, woman and children who are also at risk, are disregarded.

Do you think Christian refugees should get priority?








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