Australian officials head for Middle East to find refugees

A team of Australian officials will soon head off to the Middle East to start selecting refugees to fill the new places the government announced on Wednesday.

They’ll be looking in camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan for members of persecuted minority groups, women, children and families.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the government wants to help refugees.


“The last thing we want is to reward people smugglers and their clients,” he told ABC television on Wednesday.

“What we want to do is help people who really, under these circumstances, are never able to go back to their ancestral homes.”

On Wednesday, Mr Abbott announced Australia would make a one-off boost to its current 13,750 refugee and humanitarian intake by 12,000 permanent places over the rest of this financial year.

Australia will also provide $44 million to provide food, blankets and other support to about 240,000 people in UN and other camps.

“When we see a problem we roll up our sleeves and do what we can to help,” he told parliament.

World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello said this assistance was welcome.

But for a rich nation, Australia’s fair share would be $144 million this year, he said.

“That’s great – right direction but ….we have still have quite a lot of distance to go,” he said.