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Aussie PM rules out increasing humanitarian intake of Syrian refugees

Xinhua, November 21, 2016 Adjust font size:

Australian Prime Minister has ruled out increasing the nation's one-off humanitarian intake of refugees fleeing the war against Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East.

Despite indications from his Immigration Minister Peter Dutton that Australia was exploring the possibility of taking on more refugees, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday denied that would be the case.

"We're taking, in addition to our annual humanitarian program --which is 13,750 going up to 18,750 over the next few years -- we have a (one-off) 12,000 person intake from the Syrian conflict zone which is in the process of being handled," Turnbull told the Australian press on Monday.

"We have now a bit over half of those in the cohort have either come to Australia or have been approved to come to Australia."

"We don't have any plans to increase that 12,000 number, no. But the general humanitarian program is increasing in accordance with previous policy."

Turnbull's comments come just a day after the immigration minister touted a potential increase in the government's promised one-off intake. Dutton told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) the government could be open to the idea if its current intake program is deemed a success.

"If we get this program right (it allows us) to say to the Australian people that we may want to expand this program," he said overnight.

"And if people have faith in the integrity of the process, then it does give the government the ability to expand beyond the 12,000."

Meanwhile, Dutton also played down criticism of the time it has taken the government to resettle those fleeing the conflict zone, saying it was necessary for all of those given visas to be subjected to rigorous background checks.

"In some cases people are interviewed for a whole day or a series of days," he said. "There would be many cases where we're able to tease out as much detail as possible."

"In some cases, that is not possible because the war has torn apart a village, documentation is not available. And the experts within my department make assessments in relation to each of those cases."

According to the Immigration Department, more than 9,500 of the refugee visas have been approved and granted, while just over 6,500 of those people have been successfully brought to Australia. Endit