A Syrian family of five have been fast-tracked to Australia because the mother is seven months pregnant and will soon be unable to fly. The two parents and three children touched down in Perth on Tuesday, reportedly after spending several years in a Jordanian refugee camp. Volunteers from the Perth Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre received the family at the airport.
The federal Social Services Minister, Perth's Christian Porter, issued a statement voicing the father's gratitude. "Thank you to the Australian government for opening their doors and providing a better future for me and my children," read the statement. "We would just like to thank everybody for giving us a chance at happiness."
Their identities remain anonymous, but it has been revealed they're from the west Syrian city of Homs.
In September the Abbott Government announced it would accept an additional 12,000 Syrian immigrants on top of the international quota of 13,750. A week after that, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton announced 200 of the "most in need" were receiving fast-tracked clearances. This family is the first of that wave, with more expected through December.
Yet amid all this altruism the Australian government is still affirming its strict position on immigration. The Federal Government has carefully stage-managed this arrival, with most newspaper reports highlighting how judiciously refugees are screened for signs of religious extremism. As Dutton reiterated to Perth Radio station 6PR, "national security remains our absolute priority."
"We can, before they take off, have months looking at their individual applications, we take biometric samples, we take fingerprint samples, we check that against known databases," he explained. "If we have any hesitation with a particular application, we discard it and move onto the next one."
Perth MP Christian Porter also seemed particularly keen to stress how quickly the family would move off welfare payments. As the ABC reported "Mr. Porter said they would be able to access benefits under the system immediately, with the goal being to move people into work as quickly as possible."
Contacts close to the family in Perth were unable to comment, but Rosemary Hudson Miller from the Uniting Church Social Justice Board said she was just relieved they'd arrived safely. "We're just happy to have them here," she said.
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