A welcome first response to refugees from Syria

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Stuart McMillan, has welcomed the Federal Government’s offer of permanent resettlement to over 12,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

“We welcome the Federal Government’s timely and appropriate response to the plight of the Syrian refugees,” said Stuart.

“The overwhelming scale of the human tragedy has demanded this level of response.

“The persecution of religious minorities, including Christians, has been most grave. It is right for Australia to welcome refugees regardless of their religion or ethnicity.

“I thank the many Uniting Church members who have rallied alongside thousands of others around the country for their persistent advocacy over the last week.

“I sincerely hope we are seeing the dawn of a more compassionate, bipartisan humanitarian approach to people seeking asylum in Australia.”

National Director of UnitingJustice, Rev Elenie Poulos, has called the announcement a positive step in the right direction.

“The increase in the humanitarian intake is very welcome, and I hope that in the weeks ahead the Government commits to a significant permanent increase. The Government’s commitment of $44 million in financial aid for refugee agencies is also very welcome.

“The UNHCR says there are over four million registered refugees fleeing Syria, and Germany alone is expected to receive 800,000 asylum seekers in the course of this year. There is still much more we need to do for the world’s most vulnerable people.”

At the same time as welcoming the increased refugee intake, church leaders have voiced concerns about the Government’s announcement of military intervention in Syria.

“Air strikes on a country in the middle of such a dire humanitarian crisis can only compound the suffering and misery of the Syrian people.

“We call on the Government to commit its energies instead to improving the delivery of humanitarian relief to the region through international aid organisations,” said Stuart.

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