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Our PM needs to act

Statement by Paul Power CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia

Our Prime Minister should follow the powerful example set by US President Joe Biden and recognise that humanitarianism is a core value at the centre of any decent developed democracy.

President Biden announced on Thursday that he will sign an executive order to rebuild the US refugee resettlement program, raising the annual cap on admissions to 125,000, starting in October.

In contrast, the Morrison Government has recently cut Australia’s annual refugee intake from 18,750, down to 2013 levels of 13,750.

Despite combatting an enormous and tragic situation with COVID infections and deaths in the USA, President Biden has highlighted that humanitarianism is a core American value. He recognises the shared global responsibility to support refugees, including through expanding resettlement.

But humanitarianism is also an Australian value.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison needs to show leadership, to also acknowledge these shared values, and consequently reverse his recent cuts to Australia’s resettlement program.

Last week UNHCR revealed that the world had only resettled 22,770 refugees in 2020 – the lowest number of refugees in nearly two decades, despite record levels of forced displacement. This was largely due to the impact of COVID-19.

President Biden’s announcement shows that even during a pandemic, we can continue to show solidarity with refugees and ensure that those who need it most can find safety.

Australia’s successful management of the COVID-19 virus puts us in an even stronger position to do more to help refugees than most nations worldwide, including the USA which is struggling incredibly with the COVID pandemic.

We also welcome the news that the US will look to introducing a sponsorship program to enable American community members to be more involved in the settlement of refugees.

Australia is now falling behind also in this area, as many other countries move to adopt refugee community sponsorship programs. We hope President Biden’s example spurs on Australia to reconsider its current policies of sponsorship.

For further comment or to arrange an interview:

Refugee Council of Australia: 0488 035 535

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