14 July 2015

The Australian Christian Lobby today called on the Australian Government to follow Poland’s lead and grant refugee visas to internally displaced religious minorities fleeing Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said Christians in particular were being targeted and killed by Islamic State and were in desperate need of evacuation.

“While it is admirable that the Australian Government has created places for Syrian refugees in the overall humanitarian intake, they will not be considered for re-settlement in Australia unless they have crossed a national border.

“With neighbouring countries closing their borders, the situation is critical.

“It is simply not possible for people who are internally displaced and fleeing Islamic State fighters who want to cut their heads off to cross a national border to become refugees,” Mr Shelton said.

Last week 158 Syrian Christians, including 12 children, were flown to safety to Warsaw aboard an aircraft chartered by the Estera Foundation, funded by Barnabas Fund.

Mr Shelton said humanitarian agencies and churches in regional Australia were willing to help with the resettlement costs of internally displaced refugees but were frustrated by government inflexibility.

“If the Polish government is able to find a way to grant refugee visas to internally displaced people, surely the Australian Government can.

“We are witnessing one of the biggest humanitarian crises since World War II and yet our humanitarian intake is stuck at 13,700 people per year and we are unable to respond to the needs of people in imminent danger of losing their lives.”

Mr Shelton said this idea and others would be canvassed at the Australian Labor Party National Conference in Melbourne this month where ACL is hosting an event as part of the conference Fringe program.