'Drowned boy's dad to blame -he wanted better teeth'
AN Australian Government senator has claimed the father of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi is to blame for the boy's death.
Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi said Abdullah Kurdi had made the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey to the Greece because he wanted better teeth, news.com.au reports.
Aylan, three, his brother Galip, five, and their mother, Rehan, all drowned when the overcrowded boat they were in capsized.
The image of Aylan's body washed up on the beach in Turkey has spurred Western countries to tackle the worsening refugee crisis caused by the war in Syria.
New Zealand's Government yesterday announced it will take a further 750 Syrian refugees over the next three years, including 600 in an emergency intake above New Zealand's usual quota of refugees.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is expected to increase Australia's intake of displaced Syrians but there has been fierce resistance within his party to Australia accepting more refugees.
Pointing to the picture of Aylan's body, Senator Cory Bernardi told Australia's Parliament he was not swayed by "these emotive arguments, and in particular to characterise this as some sort of humanitarian mission".
While conceding the child's death was a tragedy, he said: "That boy and his family had lived in Turkey for three years. The money for that boy's father to pay the people smugglers was sent from Canada.
"The father sent them on that boat so the father could get dental treatment. They were in no fear, they were in no persecution and they were in no danger in Turkey."
Should we allow mainly Christian refugees from Syria?
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He added: "People were drowning at sea because of the incentives that were being provided by their cockamamie humanitarian ethos. It is much more humane for people to go through an orderly migration program, to be put in a place where they are safe and where they do not have to take such tempting things."
Aylan's father last week described the horrific moment his family slipped through his fingers as he screamed for help.
He told reporters: "My kids were the most beautiful children in the world, wonderful. Now all I want to do is sit next to the grave of my wife and children."
Aylan and Galip, who were not wearing life jackets, did not stand a chance when the boat overturned in the dead of night, some 30 minutes after it set off from the holiday resort of Bodrum in Turkey.
All 17 passengers were flung into the Mediterranean, and despite the calm water, Galip and Aylan drowned.
Mr Kurdi said that he was on board the ship with his family but was unable to save them.
He said the boat's captain panicked due to the high waves and jumped into the sea and fled, leaving him in control of the small craft.
"I took over and started steering," he said. "The waves were so high and the boat flipped."
He told Turkey's Dogan News Agency: "I was holding my wife's hand, but my children slipped through my hands. We tried to cling to the boat, but it was deflating. It was dark and everyone was screaming."
Senator Bernardi's comments come as New Zealand Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said that authorities would screen arriving Syrian refugees and refuse those ion polygamous marriages or who were directly involved in the conflict in Syria.
Mr Woodhouse said New Zealand would take those recognised as refugees on the grounds of persecution on the basis of religion or ethnicity by the UNHCR. "Once those checks have been done there are some other filtering processes, including people with polygamous marriages or who have been involved directly in the conflict. They will be excluded as well." Polygamy is illegal in New Zealand.
He said Immigration New Zealand would work with the UN to select suitable refugees for New Zealand. Immigration officials will travel to Lebanon in October and December to carry out those checks and the first refugees are expected in January.
"Obviously there is an overwhelming need and a limit to what New Zealand can do. What we want is to make sure we get people who are in serious need and who can settle here."
As well as the UNHCR and Immigration NZ checks, the Security Intelligence Service screens potential refugees to ensure they are not a security concern.
Mr Woodhouse said Immigration New Zealand will work with the Red Cross to decide which centres the refugees will be re-homed in.
Prime Minister John Key said most of the Syrian refugees would be settled in Wellington because there was already a Syrian community there and the housing demand in Auckland meant it was difficult to find housing for them. Mr Woodhouse said it was possible family members of those Syrians already in New Zealand could be taken under the numbers.
Mr Woodhouse said efforts will be made to find jobs for them after research in 2012 found less than 40 per cent of refugees had full time work five years after arriving in New Zealand.
The Government put in place a new strategy two years ago to try to improve that but the numbers are still less than 45 per cent. Mr Woodhouse said he did not expect the Syrian intake to disadvantage other refugees and the Government was putting in an extra $48.8 million to cover the extra services needed.
He said the reason for the extra numbers was so refugees from other countries did not miss out. "Generally our quota programme does focus on regions closer to home, in Bhutan, Burma, Nepal, the Americas. That's where the majority of refugees recently are from. That's a consequence of our Asia-Pacific focus."
There are calls for the quota to be permanently lifted to at least 1000, although Mr Key was cautious about that. Mr Woodhouse echoed Mr Key's caution.
The Mangere Resettlement Centre was being upgraded to allow it to cater for up to 196 refugees at any one time - and up to 300 in an emergency case such as a mass arrival of asylum seekers. All refugees spend six weeks at the centre after arrival where they are given language, health and education support.