CANBERRA -- Social Services Minister Scott Morrison says he has not noticed a surge in anti-immigration views in Australia, as the government sorts out a way to permanently resettle its offer of 12,000 extra Syrian refugees.
Morrison said he had been overwhelmed by support for the millions of Syrians fleeing conflict and has urged Australians wanting to help to be patient.
The Government has held holding talks with community representatives in Canberra just days after it announced it was almost doubling the year’s annual humanitarian refugee intake.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott began the meeting by acknowledging the situation in Syria caused by Islamic State militants and the Assad regime is dire.
“It's diabolical inside Syria,” Abbott said.
“It's dire on the borders of Syria and that's why, amongst many other things, the Australian Government announced a couple of days ago, that we would take an additional 12,000 people displaced by the conflict in Syria.”
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said there were great suggestions in the meeting around refugee screening and ultimate settlement.
The first of the Syrian refugees, which be mostly women, children and families from persecuted religious and ethnic minorities, are expected to arrive before Christmas.
The government has stressed persecuted Muslim minorities will be included in the 12,000, but the expectation is that the priority will be Syrian Christians and Yazidis.
Pointing to recent anti-immigration Reclaim Australia rallies, Greens Leader Richard Di Natale has said the government appears to be tapping into a “very strong anti-Muslim sentiment” that exists in Australia.
But, Morrison, a former Immigration Minister, has questioned the strength of that sentiment.
“I don't actually agree there has been a surge in the sentiment,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“There are a range of opinions and views in this country and that's as it is.”
“(But) I think Australians are generous. I think Australians want to be able to help where they can and they want to be able to help best, where they can help best.”
He said he had been overwhelmed by the level of number of people wanting to help the Syrian refugees.
People have offered their own homes to refugees, but the Minister says he does not believe “home stays” will be necessary.
“I'd say to those people who want to open their room tomorrow afternoon to take someone in, you'll need to be patient with us as we work through this process. We'll find the most effective way to harness your support and contribution,” Morrison said.
The Abbott Government has also committed to an extra $44 million in aid to help support at least 240,000 Syrian refugees living in camps in Turke, Jordan and Lebanon.