Australia under pressure to boost Syria refugee intake

By REUTERS
September 7, 2015 08:36
1 minute read.

 
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SYDNEY - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott came under pressure on Monday to take in more migrants to help ease a crisis sparked by tens of thousands arriving in Europe.

Abbott on Sunday announced that Australia would allocate more spaces in its 13,750 annual intake quota to those fleeing violence in Syria, but did not plan to boost the overall intake, sparking criticism from across the political spectrum.

Photographs of a Syrian toddler lying dead on a Turkish beach brought home to the world the horror faced by those desperate enough to travel illegally into the heart of Europe. But Austria said it planned to end emergency measures that have allowed thousands stranded in Hungary into Austria and Germany and move step by step "towards normality".

Australia's opposition Labor Party on Monday called for 10,000 additional intake slots as a one-time measure.

"Labor believes it isn't good enough for the government or Mr. Abbott to simply say that they will take more refugees, but from within the existing level of refugees scheduled to be taken by this country," opposition leader Bill Shorten told reporters.

"We are proposing a significant increase because this is a significant crisis."

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenburg on Monday called on Abbott to take inspiration from former Prime Minister John Howard's 1999 decision to accept 4,000 additional refugees fleeing conflict in Kosovo.

Australia's tough stance on asylum seekers, which Abbott argues is necessary to stop deaths at sea, has been strongly criticised by the United Nations and civil society groups.

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