SYDNEY - Australia is considering subjecting thousands of refugees from Syria to tougher character and security checks than their European counterparts to minimize the risk of "extremist infiltration", a leaked policy document says.
The draft document singles out refugees from Syria as potentially holding beliefs or associations that may lead them to engage in violent activities, and outlines measures to monitor them even after they gain Australian citizenship.
Australia is part of the United States-led bombing campaign against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria and is on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown radicals. Its tough asylum seeker policy, which includes mandatory detention for people arriving by boat, is a hot-button political issue.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation first reported on the leaked document prepared for the seven-member National Security Committee of cabinet. Reuters has obtained a copy.
The seven-page document lays out recommendations to be put forward by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton this year.
"To mitigate risks and build public confidence, I (Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) will be bringing forward a package of reforms to simplify Australia's visa framework and create stronger controls over access to permanent residency and citizenship," it says.
"This new framework will introduce additional decision points along the immigration continuum including ... enhanced access, use and protection of sensitive information to strengthen intelligence-led, risk based decision making ... from pre-visa stage to post-citizenship conferral."
A spokeswoman for Dutton dismissed the document's significance but declined to comment on whether the minister supported its contents.
"Government departments produce draft documents for consideration all the time. This is a draft document which has not been seen by the Minister or his staff - nothing more," she said.
Australia last year agreed to accept 12,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria, as hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers flooded into Europe amidst the worsening conflict.