Friday 19 January 2018

Australian politicians urge government to 'prioritise' Christian refugees

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has agreed to accept more Syrian and Iraqi refugees
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has agreed to accept more Syrian and Iraqi refugees

David Kearns

Senior government figures in Australia want Christian refugees from Syria to be given priority amid mounting calls for the county to take in more migrants.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has come under pressure to accept additional refugees fleeing Syria, with many from within his own party calling for Australia to take in as many as 50,000 refugees, but now several prominent coalition figures have said the country should prioritise Christians.

“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,” said Employment Minister Eric Abetz.

Read More: WATCH: Hungarian TV camera woman fired for tripping Syrian refugees

Another frontbencher, Barnaby Joyce, made similar comments, telling ABC Radio that while Shias, Zoroastrians and Jews in the region were also being persecuted, “the reality is that the future of Christianity in that area is over”.

Christians in Islamic State held territory, along with other religious minorities and political dissidents, have been persecuted by the militants, and dozens of churches in Mosul, Iraq, have reportedly been destroyed.

On Monday, one Australian politician from Queenslands said Syrian people needed to “sort out their own problems” before urging the government to not “overreact” to the refugee crisis.

Mr Abbott announced on Sunday that Australia would take more Syrian and Iraqi refugees as part of the refugee resettlement quota.

Read More: Juncker urges humanity and dignity towards refugees, references Irish in US

Calls for Christians to be given priority among Syrian refugees were branded as “discriminatory” and reinforcing a sense Muslims “are always going to be vilified in the Australian community”, the country’s highest Sunni authority has said. 

Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, Australia’s grand mufti, said choosing refugees based on religion or ethnicity was the very kind of sectarian thinking “that got Iraq and Syria into the problems they’re facing now”.

“When it comes to catastrophes such as these we should be prioritising human beings rather than prioritising a certain religion,” he told Guardian Australia.

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