7 Sep 2015

Australia set to increase its refugee intake

10:13 am on 7 September 2015

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said he was prepared to increase the number of refugees Australia accepted from war-torn Syria, but will not lift the overall intake.

Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott Photo: AFP

Mr Abbott said he had been moved by the photos of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi on a Turkish beach that put a human face to the dangers refugees risk trying to reach safety.

He said Australia's focus would be on families and women and children, especially of persecuted minorities, who have sought refuge in camps neighbouring Syria and Iraq.

Last financial year Australia settled more than 4,400 people from Syria and Iraq.

Mr Abbott said the overall intake would increase from to 18,750 by 2018.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton went to Geneva to ask the United Nations how the Government could assist in the crisis.

Mr Abbot said the Government was also considering further funding for humanitarian assistance to those seeking refuge in refugee camps.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, meanwhile, joined his New South Wales counterpart Mike Baird in calling on the Government to act.

The Greens want Australia to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees immediately.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs