UN welcomes Australia taking 12,000 refugees but says world must do more

 

Australia needed to abandon the artificial distinction between asylum seekers in overseas camps and those who had travelled to Australia seeking protection.

Some of the people held in detention on Manus Island, Nauru and in Australia have fled the same conflicts, at the same time, as those being considered for resettlement.

“There is no real difference in the nature of these people’s journeys, and this has been recognised in Europe

 

Ben Doherty and Shalailah Medhora, The Guardian AU, 9 September 2015

The United Nations has welcomed Australia’s decision to accept an additional 12,000 refugees fleeing the Syrian crisis, and extra funding to help the millions displaced, but has warned the humanitarian crisis remains far greater than the world’s response so far.

Australia announced it would permanently resettle 12,000 refugees from Syria in camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

The extra places – a one-off intake targeted to persecuted minorities, not a permanent increase to Australia’s humanitarian program – would be additional to the humanitarian intake of 13,750 a year.

Australia also pledged an additional $44m for shelter kits, food, water and blankets for those in refugee camps in the region.

“The prime minister’s announcement comes at a crucial time when UNHCR is stretched to capacity in meeting the needs of the most desperate,” the UN’s refugee agency said.

But with winter approaching the UNHCR says there is a funding shortfall of US$2.85bn, meaning refugees have had their food assistance cut by a third.

“Syrian refugees are encountering extreme levels of poverty due to funding shortfalls for refugee programs. Families are forced to remove their children from school and resort to begging on the streets in despair and desperation.”

International refugee lawyers and human rights organisations have also welcomed Australia’s acceptance of more displaced people from the four-year Syrian civil war that has already produced nearly 4 million refugees and displaced more than 7 million people inside the country.

“I’d welcome the announcement of these additional places; they are sorely needed given the large numbers of displaced people,” Prof Jane McAdam, from the Kaldor centre for international refugee law at the University of New South Wales, told Guardian Australia.

“But this needs to be seen in a broader global context. One-off increases will not be sufficient. What is needed is an ongoing, sustained commitment to protect refugees in need.”

Australia could comfortably increase its annual humanitarian intake to at least 25,000, McAdam said.

And Australia needed to abandon the artificial distinction between asylum seekers in overseas camps and those who had travelled to Australia seeking protection.

Some of the people held in detention on Manus Island, Nauru and in Australia have fled the same conflicts, at the same time, as those being considered for resettlement.

“There is no real difference in the nature of these people’s journeys, and this has been recognised in Europe – that it’s not illegal to move to seek asylum. In Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, there is no durable solution, so people have to move, people have to move to find safety and find protection.”

Amnesty International urged that Australia resettle the additional 12,000 people within a year. The government has indicated it hopes the first resettlements will take place before the end of this year, with the full cohort in Australia by mid-2016.

“Thousands more people will now have the chance to live safe and happy lives and make positive contributions to the diverse Australian community,” Amnesty’s Graham Thom said.

“It is a positive demonstration of leadership which hopefully other developed countries will follow.”

The Anglican church’s primate of Australia, Melbourne archbishop Philip Freier, welcomed the government’s decision to accept more refugees, after earlier indicating there would be no increase.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/sep/09/un-welcomes-australia-taking-12000-refugees-but-says-world-must-do-more