Media Release

For release: Monday May 9, 2011

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) cautiously welcomes the Gillard Government’s plan to discourage people smuggling by prioritising refugees who could not afford to pay a people smuggler to get to Australia.

ACL Chief of Staff Lyle Shelton said this approach gave rightful preference to refugees who were patiently waiting for their claims to be processed through normal United Nations channels.

He said it also lifted Australia’s annual humanitarian intake from 13,750 to 14, 750 and was a strong deterrent to risking one’s life on a people smuggler’s boat.

“ACL has long argued that Australia’s policy on asylum seekers needed to put resources into speeding up the claims of refugees languishing in camps but who could not afford passage with a people smuggler.

“ACL has also argued that Australia should be more generous in accepting refugees and applauds the agreement with Malaysia which will result in an increased number of refugees being re-settled in Australia.

“We are a wealthy country and we can afford to be more generous in accepting refugees. We have only accepted between 13,000 and14,000 refugees per year for the past five years, which is not overly generous given the scale of the global humanitarian crisis.

“However, it is important that our borders be protected, that lives are not risked through people smuggling and that refugees going through the UN process are treated fairly and rewarded for their patience,” Mr Shelton said.