Australia Must Expedite Resettling Refugees: Syrian Activist

Syrian refugees

A prominent activist from Syria has urged the Australian government to expedite its commitment to resettle 12,000 Syrian refugees. Activist Bassam al-Ahmad said the promise made by former Prime Minister Tony Abbot  in this regard has been tardy in progress. So far only 26 refugees have been settled in Australia.

Ahmad said in Melbourne that Australia needs to speed up the resettlement process since six months have already passed. He praised the Australian society for its caring attitude, citing the time he spent in Australia and said the community has been very welcoming towards diverse cultures, reports News Corp.

Ahmad also met many Australian government officials and representatives of non-government organizations to press his demand. He said long delays in the process would make the refugees more vulnerable. Many migrants are dying from the harsh conditions prevailing in refugee camps, he noted.

“I came here … to advocate for refugees,” the 32-year-old Syrian activist told AAP in Melbourne.

“I’m here to tell people what’s going on in Syria and talk about how they can help the people there.”

Ahmad had to flee Syria for Turkey after facing police action in 2012 for documenting human rights abuses in Syria. The Syrian activist’s demand was also echoed by human rights body Amnesty International, which also expressed concern at the poor headway in resettling the Syrian refugees.

Amnesty also urged the federal government to play a larger role in mitigating the humanitarian crisis of Syria by going beyond military contributions.

Meanwhile, a leaked document of the Australian government revealed that Canberra wants to screen Syrian refugees to address security concerns.

A document from Department of Immigration and Border Protection document, obtained by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), spoke about the linkages between Australia’s intake of Muslim migrants and their participation in terrorist attacks in the country since 2013.

The document said the department would “apply additional screening criteria to the 12,000 Syrian migrant intake and extend this, where possible on a risk basis, to the humanitarian programme.”

It said refugees from the conflict areas will bring issues and beliefs that could exacerbate violence from a political or communal angles, reports the World Weekly. 

In this regard, the Immigration department specifically highlighted Australia’s experience with Sunni Muslim migrants from Lebanon. It added that threats to the safety and security of the country could amplify if integrations become unsuccessful.

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