Australia may be open to taking more Syrian refugees, over and above the 12,000 in the special intake already announced, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said today.
Speaking on the ABC's Insiders program, Mr Dutton suggested that if the resettlement of the Syrian refugees went according to plan then the program could be extended, "depending on the circumstances" in Syria.
Mr Dutton recently travelled to refugee camps in Jordan where he was confronted by the plight of refugees fleeing the crisis in Syria and presented the first four families with their Australian visas. He said today that with 4.2 million people having fled the country and over 7 million internally displaced, the situation was only going to get worse.
“I think if we can demonstrate that we can get the security and health checks right and that we’re bringing the right people, that I think people will have confidence in the program -- perhaps at some point -- extending, depending on the circumstances in Syria,” Dutton said.
"The government is open to further assistance, given that this situation will deteriorate but we need to first demonstrate that we can bring the 12,000 across."
Mr Dutton was positive about the the response from States and Territories to resettle refugees under the existing program.
"We seem to have some bidding war going on between the States and Territories about how many Syrians will come to the respective States and Territories and that's a great thing," he said.
As to the worsening situation in Syria, he said: "There's no quick fix, no political outcome. The Assad regime is still in place, ISIS is still running around causing havoc."
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced in September that Australia would resettle 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq in addition to the 13,750 annual quota for humanitarian visas.
In response to Dutton's announcement today, Greens MP Adam Bandt welcomed the possibility of Australia resettling more refugees but said the government should first consider resettling Syrians and Iraqis currently detained in Australian-run offshore detention centres.
“If Peter Dutton is serious about caring for people in trouble, then he should start at home, and say, let’s let the people, who are currently in Australian detention, who fled Syria, out living in the community as well,” he told reporters.