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Australia ‘handpicking’ refugees condemned

The Lebanese Muslim Association says the suggestions peddle prejudice and division within the Australian community.



The decision by the Government to join US airstrikes was also condemned, in favour of diplomatic talks for a peaceful solution to the crisis.


It was a diverse group of refugee advocates and Christian and Muslim representatives who spoke to the media.


Their statements were critical of the Federal Government’s decision to handpick refugees who will settle in Australia.


One of the stongest critics was Widyan Fares, of the Lebanese Muslim Association.


“We are obliged to condemn in the strongest of terms the suggestion that priority should be given to people of one faith over another.”


She says it simply encourages anti-Muslim sentiments.


“As Australians we cannot and must not tolerate a rhetoric of discrimination and Islamophobia.”


Spending five years in a refugee camp herself with her family fleeing Saddam Hussein’s regime, she says Australia should not inflame the current situation in Syria by joining US airstrikes.


“We encourage the Australian government to take serious diplomatic attempts at resolving the Syrian crisis using peaceful measures rather than implementing airstrikes which consequently creates more refugees and a greater civilian death toll.”


Ms Fares believes Syrian asylum seekers held in detention centres should also be helped by the Australian Government.


“Because their circumstances are no different to any other refugee who has fled Syria and should be treated equally for they too can never return to their homeland.”


Christians at the press conference backed the sentiment.


Father Rod Bower from the Gosford Anglican Church in New South Wales says it sends the wrong message internationally and even more so at home.


“Even more disturbingly, it’s very important that that message is not sent it’s very important we send a message of a we are a secular democracy we don’t discriminate on the grounds of religion and therefore it’s need not greed.”


Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Australia’s priority remains the resettlement of persecuted minorities.


“Some will be Muslim, some will be Christian, but the point is: these are people who have been displaced by war.”


Former Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says those displaced are mostly Christians.


“In Australia we will be taking people who will never be able to go back, that is why we are focusing our intake of that 12,000 on persecuted minorities which are predominately Middle Eastern Christians.”



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