Australia’s immigration minister, Scott Morrison, said that successfully stopping and turning back asylum seeker boats for the past few months have freed up enough space to accommodate tortured, oppressed Iraqis fearing for their lives.
Speaking about the government’s Operation Sovereign Borders, Morrison said that fewer boats have been arriving in Australia since the country announced it would not be assisting and re-settling unauthorized refugees and have instead been sending arrivals to a refugee camp in Papua New Guinea, according to AFP.
“The government’s policies under Operation Sovereign Borders have not only saved lives at sea, but also allowed more places to be returned to our humanitarian programme for the world’s most desperate and vulnerable people,” said Morrison.
Morrison said at the weekend that the available space will be equally shared by Iraqis and Syrians, “including those now living in desperate conditions in countries such as Lebanon.”
Australia accepts 13,750 people into its humanitarian refugee programme each year, and Morrison said the government would ensure that 11,000 of these places would be for people overseas in need of resettlement.
Morrison continued, saying that, “This government has made it very clear that priority in the humanitarian programme should be for those waiting overseas and entering Australia under an orderly process.”
In 2015 Australia accepted around 1,000 refugees from Syria, over 2,000 from Iraq, 2,754 refugees from Afghanistan and 1,800 from Myanmar (Burma).
Saying that Australia would continue to aim for the successful resettlement of refugees in Myanmar, Morrison added that Australia would pay particular attention to “those from the many Christian ethnic minorities currently living in Malaysia and Thailand, such as the Karen and Chin”.
The Refugee Action Coalition criticised the government’s announcement, saying the conservative administration had cut the overall refugee intake from 20,000 to 13,750 after taking office in September 2013.
IMAGE: Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison (WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)