Christians in the Middle East are “the most persecuted group in the world” and should be given priority in the refugee resettlement process, government Senate leader Eric Abetz has argued.
With the Coalition under pressure to take more refugees from Syria and Tony Abbott offering a haven for persecuted minorities, Abetz told reporters on Tuesday that Syrian Christians should be given preference.
“I think the Australian people would see a need for that to be a focus,” he said, adding that resettlement should be decided “on the basis of need”.
Christians, he argued, were the most needy.
“Christians are the most persecuted group in the world, and especially in the Middle East, I think it stands to reason that they would be pretty high up on the priority list for resettlement,” Abetz said.
Abbott announced on Sunday that Australia would take more Syrian and Iraqi refugees as part of the refugee resettlement quota, while refusing to increase the overall figure of 13,750.
As divisions within the government on the issue were exposed, Abbott announced in question time on Tuesday that the government would finalise its position on how to respond to the crisis within 24 hours.
Several MPs, including frontbenchers Julie Bishop and Josh Frydenberg, have put pressure on the prime minister to do more.
Abbott reportedly told the joint party room meeting on Tuesday the party would “rule with our heads and not just our hearts” on the issue. He said the party should be “true to our values” while not losing sight of long-term goals.
Refugees were being made to decide between the “anvil of [Syrian president Bashar al] Assad and the hammer of Daesh”.
Seventeen people spoke on refugees in both the joint party meeting and the Liberal party room meeting, most on how there has been a shift on the public’s perception of the issue.
Sarah Henderson told the party room that it’s not just “the ABC and organisations of the left” that are calling on the government to do more to help refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, but that those who “stood by the government” on their hardline immigration policies also wanted greater action
For More: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/sep/08/christian-refugees-from-middle-east-should-be-given-priority-says-eric-abetz