Govt to announce Syrian refugee plan

Govt to announce Syrian refugee plan

The government is on the verge of announcing just what Australia will do to assist some of the tens of thousands fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq.

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The cabinet’s national security committee met on Tuesday night to discuss the issue and was briefed by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who has been assessing the refugee situation in Europe.

The proposals will be raised in the government party room on Wednesday morning.

The government is under growing pressure to respond generously to the escalating refugee crisis that has seen thousands cross the Mediterranean to Europe, with many drowning on the way.

Government members spent an hour in party room meetings on Tuesday thrashing out the refugee issue.

There is a diversity of views.

Labor says Australia should provide at least 10,000 more places under the humanitarian and refugee program, while the Greens want 20,000 and aid groups argue it should be 30,000. One Liberal MP said Australia should accept up to 50,000 refugees.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the government will act with “decency and strength”.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said there will be a focus on assisting those persecuted ethnic and religious minorities who will have no home to return to when the conflict is over.

“So that includes Maronites, it includes Yazidis, there are Druze,” she told ABC television.

Ms Bishop said this is not an issue Australia can solve alone.

“Australia will play its part in what has to be an international response because it is beyond the capacity of any one country or any one region to deal with this issue,” she told Sky News.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the government should add to the existing 13,750 humanitarian places, not substitute Syrian refugees for others.

“I say to the government, please don’t be guilty of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing,” he told reporters.

The government is considering providing those fleeing the violence a mix of permanent resettlement places and temporary safe haven visas, similar to what was offered during the Kosovo conflict.

Talks are expected with states and community groups on how to provide health care, education, accommodation and other services.