In the last week our media has been extensively covering the plight of Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing into Europe. Their reception has been mixed but the governments of Germany and Austria, and their people, have been extending help and kindness.
I have posted three blogs in recent days on these issues: Mother Merkel and 800,000 refugees; Suffer the little children; Syrian and Iraqi refugees – a time for a bipartisan and community response (Arja Keski-Nummi and Josef Szwarc).
In response we are seeing the generosity and concern of many Australians.
Premier Baird in NSW said ‘We should do more and we should do it now.’ After seeing photos of the lifeless Aylan Kurdi, he said we must move beyond the debate about boats.
The Tasmanian Premier, Will Hodgman, has offered to help refugees under a safe-haven scheme that was very helpful a decade and a half ago for refugees from Kosovo.
The SA Premier, Jay Wetherall has said that ‘We will certainly be offering SA as an open and welcoming destination for those Syrians fleeing violence.’
Barnaby Joyce has said that we need to do more. Many other MPs from all parties have expressed similar views. Trade Minister Andrew Robb has said that an initiative to help Syrians fleeing the war ‘was under review’. Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton will travel to Geneva to ask the UNHCR what more Australia can do to help refugees from war-torn Syria and Iraq.
Tony Abbott is also responding by saying today that ‘We are proposing to take more people from the region as part of our very substantial commitment to the UNHCR. Mark Butler has said that at its last federal conference the ALP decided to increase the refugee intake from 13,750 to 27,000 pe annum. He said this gave substantial headroom to help Syrian refugees.
The generosity of the countries bordering Iraq and Syria has been remarkable. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have taken millions of refugees. But their generosity has been severely tested to breaking point. That is why we are now seeing the outflow of refugees into Europe.
We were all appalled by the site of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying lifeless on a Turkish beach. His death and that of his sister and mother may not have been in vain. The human tragedy in a picture tugged at our hearts more than statistics ever could. But what a dreadful prices the Kurdi family has paid.
Let’s hope that the Australian response both by governments and community groups will be generous enough to meet the tragedy which is now unfolding.
Can we match Germany’s generosity, perhaps not in numbers but in spirit?