The multi-billion dollar savings from the wind-down of detention centres should now be channelled into doubling the refugee intake, Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Lyle Shelton said today.
Mr Shelton renewed the ACL’s long-standing call for a more generous humanitarian intake after discussion in Senate Estimates yesterday about the $2.5 billion saving over the forward estimates.
“Now that people smuggling has all but stopped and Australia’s border protection costs are coming down, it is time to adopt a more generous approach to refugees.
“We can afford to resettle more people and we know these people will in time help grow the Australian economy.”
Mr Shelton said the issue would be raised this weekend when Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Michaelia Cash address the ACL National Conference in Canberra.
Mr Shelton said persecution of Christians and other religious minorities, including Muslim minorities, was a major problem in the Middle East, Asia and north Africa.
Apart from the brutal persecution of people at the hands of Islamic State, Christians and other minorities were under extreme duress from apostasy laws in Muslim countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Mr Shelton said Australia’s refugee intake should be weighted towards people suffering the most persecution.
“There are 51 million displaced people in the world today, millions of whom have been languishing for years in camps in Africa, the Thai-Burma border, Lebanon and Jordan,” Mr Shelton said.
“The fact that our intake of 13,700 refugees per year is, on a per capita basis, one of the most generous in the world shows that the international community is failing the world’s displaced people.
“Even a doubling of our intake won’t solve these peoples’ problems, but it will help.
“A more generous approach will make a difference and is a moral imperative for a wealthy nation like Australia.”