Australia has done its level best to influence the refugee debate in the most negative of ways. While Prime Minister Tony Abbott continues to press the policy of “turning back the boats”, advocating that European nations to do the same, the refugee crisis has grown. This has produced an Australian response of ceding concessions by accepting more refugees. The Abbott government because of public opinion feels it needs to act, but it is only doing so with reluctance. But it wants only appropriate refugees, in the language of Australian diplomacy, from Syria’s “minorities”. It takes no great genius to interpret the word– it means refugees of the non-Muslim sort.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull made it clear, Australia’s priority is saving Syria’s Christian communities. “They are a minority, they survived in Syria, they’ve been there for thousands of years, literally since the time of Christ.”
Senate Leader Eric Abetz has similarly pushed the line on Christian salvation. “It should be on the basis of need and given the Christians are the most persecuted group in the world, and especially in the Middle East, I think it stands to reason that they would be pretty high up on the priority list for resettlement.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has also had her pick of preferred exceptionally persecuted minority groups. She favours supporting Maronites and various groups within, including the Yazidis and Druze.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten made the obvious point that, “Being a victim of war doesn’t know a particular religion.”