Abbott: We will all need to help 12,000 extra refugees
THE nation's political leaders will be called on to help contribute to re-homing more than 12,000 refugees from Syria.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott unveiled Australia's response to the humanitarian crisis in Europe at a press conference in Canberra a short while ago.
Mr Abbott also committed an extra $44 million in aid for people caught in Europe's massive migration crisis and confirmed Australia's air strikes against Daesh would extend into Syria.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is expected to make an announcement regarding her state's answer to the crisis at 1pm today.
"Our focus will be on those most in need - the women, children and families of persecuted minorities who have sought refuge from the conflict in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey," Mr Abbott said.
"A team of government officials will depart for the region as soon as possible to begin identifying and processing potential candidates for resettlement."
Mr Abbott said the announcement followed consultations with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian agencies.
"Our officials will work with the UNHCR to resettle the refugees as soon as possible," he said.
"They will undergo normal security, health and character checks before coming to Australia and receiving permanent protection."
Mr Abbott said every Australian government would need to lend a hand.
"It will require the support of all Australian governments and community organisations," he said.
"We will engage state and territory leaders and community organisations in coming days to discuss how the nation can contribute to this effort."
Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett said his state would find room for an extra 1000 refugees and South Australia is also prepared to take at least 800.
Queensland and NSW are yet to commit to re-settlement figures.
Coalition and opposition MPs, community leaders and Australia residents urged Mr Abbott to let more refugees in after photos of the lifeless body of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi gave a human face to the crisis last week.
In 2014-15, more than 4400 people from Syria and Iraq settled in Australia.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton early today said Australia's response to the crisis would "impress".
"I think people will be impressed with Australia's response," Mr Dutton said from Geneva where he is meeting with UNHCR officials about the crisis.
"I think people will see it as a generous offering on behalf of the Australian public.
"And I think people will be proud of what the government's proposing."
Opposition leader Bill Shorten urged Mr Abbott to stop some members of the Coalition who were spreading "ridiculous rubbish" about the impact of letting more Syrians into Australia.
"I think it's important that Mr Abbott rein in some of his rouge MPs on the far right who have been saying that somehow taking more refugees in this global tragedy will cost Australian jobs," Mr Shorten said.
"We just need to stamp out that sort of ridiculous rubbish and call it for what it is."
The 12,000 places are in addition to the existing humanitarian program commitment of 13,750, which rises to 18,750 in 2018-19.
- APN NEWSDESK
Earlier this week, the government said its focus "will be on families and women and children, especially of persecuted minorities, who have sought refuge in camps neighbouring Syria and Iraq"
It said last financial year Australia settled more than 4,400 people from Syria and Iraq - accounting for 30 per cent of the 13,750 places under the Humanitarian Programme.
"Australia, on a per capita basis, is the UNHCR's leading nation for the permanent resettlement of refugees and the government is increasing our humanitarian programme from 13,750 places per annum to 18,750 by 2018/19,'' a statement said.
Australia has provided $155 million in response to the Syria crisis since 2011.
Around half of this assistance has been delivered inside Syria with the remainder provided to neighbouring countries to assist both refugees and their host communities.
It has delivered food, water, healthcare, education, emergency supplies and protection, including support for women and girls.
The aid includes:
$40 million for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
$26 million to the World Food Program (WFP)
$23 million to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF)
$13 million to Australian NGOs including CARE, Oxfam, Save the Children and World Vision
$7 million to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
- APN NEWSDESK