Australia will take 12,000 Syrian refugees and provide 44 million Australian dollars (32 million US dollars) in humanitarian aid as well as joining coalition forces bombing Islamic State targets inside Syria, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Wednesday.
Abbott said the refugees will come from “persecuted minorities” fleeing the Syria and Iraq conflict who are in camps run by the UNHCR in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon, Abbott told reporters in Canberra.
The 12,000 Syrian refugees will be accepted as permanent settlers in Australia and on top of the 13,750 refugees already scheduled to be taken in this year.
“This is a very significant increase in Australia’s humanitarian intake and it’s a generous response to the current emergency,” Abbott said.
The government has been pressured by church groups and some of its own members to prioritise Christian refugees, but Abbott said the refugees would come from all persecuted minorities.
“Our focus is on the persecuted minorities who have been displaced and are very unlikely ever to be able to go back to their original homes,” he said.
Australia has six F/A-18 Hornet fighter-bombers attacking Islamic State in Iraq and they will now join US-led aerial forces in airstrikes on Islamic State targets inside Syria.
Abbott said Islamic State needed to be “degraded and destroyed” wherever they were.
“The Daesh death cult is reaching out to Australians, as terrorist incidents and disrupted attacks here have demonstrated.”