Canada knows nothing about Australia’s apparent plan to send refugees from its controversial offshore detention centres here.
Several prominent figures in Australia – including an MP and charity Save the Children – have gone on record saying Canada would be the perfect destination for Manus and Nauru asylum seekers.
But Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada have heard nothing about it, making the whole discussion appear extremely premature and amateurish on the part of Australian officials.
It seems an off-the-cuff comment by an MP on an Australian talk show was responsible for triggering talk of Canada as a solution to the refugee problem.
The MP in question is Anthony Albanese, who faces a fight for his seat in a July election in which the detention centre is a key issue. He described Canada as the ‘obvious’ solution to the problem.
Peter Dutton, the country’s immigration minister, courted controversy recently by saying the refugees would only take Australian jobs or place a burden on the social benefit system if allowed into the country.
The day after Albanese’s comments, and the leader of Australia’s Labor party, Bill Shorten, was getting in on the act. Shorten offered praise for Canada’s policy on Syrian refugees, describing it as an ‘excellent settlement country’. It seems Canada is being thrown around like the ball in a political game ahead of the Australian election.
Charity Save the Children was next to take possession of that ball this week, with a press release under the headline ‘Canada must be on the table for people languishing in Manus and Nauru’.
Australia has turned away thousands of asylum seekers attempting to gain access to the country by boat. Many of them are housed in detention centres on the islands of Manus and Mauru, who conditions are said to be poor and child abuse rife. Two detainees set themselves on fire in protest recently.
The Canadian Liberal government’s policy on Syrian refugees has attracted international praise, as more than 25,000 have been resettled here since Justin Trudeau was elected in October.
The system for sponsoring and housing refugees has not been without problems, but hoards of Canadians have stepped forward to welcome Syrians into their communities.
Canada and Australia are often mentioned in the same breath as countries with cutting edge immigration policies, both relying on foreign workers to plug gaps in their respective workforces.
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