The Australian’s Chris Kenny has used the word “compassionistas” to decry people of “moral vanity” who responded to the current Syrian refugee crisis yet seemingly ignored the deaths at sea under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Government.
Kenny wrote, “The moral poseurs – or compassionistas as I have called them – are at pains to show us their compassionate virtue but they offer no practical solutions to a difficult policy issue.” Read more.
Much of the debate over Twitter in recent days has been around how compassionate a nation Australia is. The Refugee Council of Australia agreed with The Daily Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine that Australia was the most generous but only if you precluded from the statistics all the countries hosting refugees.
— Refugee Council of Australia (@OzRefugeeCounc) September 7, 2015
Devine later backed down to claim Australia as third most generous in the Compassionista Olympics.
Yet despite Australia’s compassionate nature, the push appears to be on for the country to take in Christian refugees over other groups. Syrian Christians make up about 10 percent of the population, according to Central Intelligence Agency reports. Both Liberal Senator Eric Abetz and Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi have backed the move for Christians to be given priority due their heightened level of persecution. Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher also called for Christians to go to the front of the queue.
— The Australian (@australian) September 8, 2015
However, Chief Communications & Spokesperson for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees Melissa Fleming said that selecting people on the basis of religion or ethnic background would be unprecedented.
She told ABC News radio that, “We operate under a completely non discriminatory basis.”
“It is up to the individual country to screen the candidates that UNHCR has put forward but we’ve never had a case where countries were systemically only choosing people based on their religious or ethnic backgrounds,” she said.
In his press conference announcement, Prime Minister Tony Abbott didn’t specify any particular groups that would be preferenced as part of the 12,000 Syrian refugees destined for Australia. He did say that the most persecuted women, children and families would be transferred from refugee camps in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.
UNHCR’s Melissa Fleming agreed that taking refugees from Syria’s neighbours was the best strategy.
“Resettlement prevents people from having to take dangerous journeys and risk their lives,” she said.
“We wouldn’t be asking for a relocation into other countries outside of Europe of those who have all ready made it to Europe. We believe [that of] those who have made it to Europe, that is an European responsibility on the continent. There should be [a] relocation to European countries on a mandatory basis.”
Update 1 (September 10, 2015) – Scott Morrison calls for Christians first
- Shalailah Medhora reports, “A second senior government minister has reiterated that Christians will be the focus of the government’s 12,000 humanitarian intake from Syria, as the prime minister, Tony Abbott moves to reassure the community that all persecuted minorities will be considered for resettlement.
On Wednesday, Abbott announced that Australia would resettle 12,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria and Iraq, on top of the existing 13,750 humanitarian intake.
The social services minister, Scott Morrison, said Christian Syrians would make up the bulk of the intake.
“Middle Eastern Christians have been run out of town in the Middle East now for many years and that is why our government right from the outset has had a much higher priority focus on those persecuted minorities in the Middle East which are predominately Christian and that is where our focus will be,” Morrison told reporters.”: Scott Morrison says Christians will be focus of Australia’s refugee intake.
- Scott Morrison states, “Middle Eastern Christians that have been run out of town in the Middle East now for many years and that is why our government right from the outset has had a much higher priority focus on those persecuted minorities in the Middle East which are predominately Christian and that is where our focus will be.”: Doorstop interview – 10 September 2015.
Update 2 (September 10, 2015) – UNHCR Melissa Fleming responds
UNHCR’s Melissa Fleming has responded to NoFibs.
UNHCR's resettlement selection is based on specific needs & vulnerabilities, not on any other factors. https://t.co/wNGKoa7Wq2
— Melissa Fleming 🇺🇳 (@MelissaFleming) September 10, 2015