Australia has announced it will launch air strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group targets in Syria within days and resettle an additional 12,000 refugees from the deepening humanitarian and security crisis in the Middle East.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott also announced Wednesday that his government will pay an additional $31m to support 240,000 Syrians and Iraqis in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.
Labor welcomes the Abbott Govt’s announcement to provide 12,000 additional places for people fleeing persecution in the Middle East. #auspol
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) September 9, 2015
On Sunday, Abbott said Australia would allocate more spaces in its 13,750 annual intake quota to those fleeing violence in Syria, but did not plan to boost the overall intake, sparking criticism from across the political spectrum.
The opposition Labor Party was among the critics, calling for an additional 10,000 refugees to be resettled from Syria.
After Abbott announced an even higher figure on Wednesday, opposition leader Bill Shorten said that the plan had bipartisan support.
The Australian government will give preference to women, children and families from persecuted minorities from Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, Abbott said.
The prime minister also announced that Australia’s involvement in strikes against ISIL, which already take place in Iraq, could extend to Syria within days.
“Destroying this death cult is essential, not just to ending the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East but also to ending the threat to Australia and the wider world,” Abbott said.
The government said the legal basis for extending air operations into Syria was the collective self-defence of Iraq as the armed group did not respect national borders.
“We are exercising the right to collective self-defence under Article 51 of the UN charter in striking Daesh [ISIL] in Syria,” Abbott said, adding that the focus of the campaign would be on ISIL, and not the Assad government.
“We have no legal basis at this point in time for wider strikes in Syria and we don’t intend to make wider strikes in Syria,” he said.