Australian PM faces cabinet pressure to accept more Syrian refugees

Updated: 2015-09-07 10:20


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CANBERRA -- Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is on Monday facing growing pressure from his own cabinet ministers to increase the intake of Syrian refugees in the wake of the humanitarian crisis gripping the Middle East.

High-ranking Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg is the latest to support assisting a greater number of those fleeing the war-torn region, despite Abbott saying Australia would not increase the number of refugees it accepts every year.

Instead, the prime minister said the percentage of Syrians accepted would be increased, but the annual intake of 13,750 overall refugees would remain the same.

"We have always been a country that shoulders its responsibilities, that pulls its weight globally," Abbott told the media in Canberra on Monday.

"We will respond with strength and with generosity because that is the Australian way."

But Frydenberg, Australia's assistant treasurer, told Sky News the government could "do more."

Meanwhile the opposition is also pressuring the prime minister to make a bold announcement, though it has not publicly recommended a figure.

Labor has previously stated that it would aim to double the existing refugee intake within the next decade, and opposition spokesperson Stephen Conroy said the Liberal government must recognize that it needs to act generously now.

"When you look at the scale of the humanitarian disaster that is taking place, arising out of the challenges in Syria, to say that we're not going to be increasing our intake is not stepping up," Conroy told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Monday.