23 November 2015

The Australian Christian Lobby today welcomed the Turnbull Government’s moves to use the Special Humanitarian Program to ensure persecuted Christians and other minorities were given appropriate weighting amongst the 12,000 Syrian & Iraqi refugees Australia is taking.

On Sunday, the prime minister responded to growing concerns among Christian leaders, including the Catholic archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher, that refugees in the greatest danger of religious persecution were missing out.

ACL managing director Lyle Shelton said it was encouraging that Mr Turnbull committed to better focus the attention of the refugee intake on minority groups such as Christians, Yazidis, Zoroastrains and Jews who face little prospect of re-settlement in the Middle East.

“The Government is right to give priority to those who face the greatest danger as a result of the wars in the Middle East and clearly that is currently the persecuted religious minorities.

“The ACL has long advocated for the Australian Government to give priority to persecuted religious minorities, so it is particularly encouraging to see that Turnbull Government shares our concerns.

“We are witnessing the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II so a swift response is required by the Government.

“ACL was pleased to see the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton recently indicate more refugees from the Syrian crisis may be considered in the future.

“We encourage the Federal Government to consider doubling its annual humanitarian intake to 27,400 as part of its efforts to shoulder more of the burden given that we are a wealthy country with the capacity to help people suffering from religious from persecution.”

In response to the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities by Islamic State, more than 20,000 ACL supporters last year signed a petition urging the government to increase the refugee intake.

“It has been pleasing to see that Christians have been at the forefront of building community consensus for the government to do more to assist refugees.”

Earlier this year, ACL backed calls by former immigration minister Philip Ruddock and Labor’s chief whip Chris Hayes for the government to consider a “Kosovo-style solution” where people were brought to Australia until it was safe to go home.