Immigration boss Michael Pezzullo has urged world leaders to increase their refugee intakes and stressed the need to rip apart international people smuggling rings “piece by piece”.
Australia will boost its annual refugee intake to 18,750 in 2018-19, and is ranked third behind the United States and Canada in terms of refugees resettled through the UNHCR.
Mr Pezzullo believes Australia is showing strong leadership on the issue, and other countries need to step up.
‘Unless countries are willing to put those sorts of numbers and more on the table, people will take the boats, people will seek the services of smugglers and traffickers,’ he told the Crawford Australian Leadership Forum in Canberra on Monday evening.
‘But that is to be avoided – almost as a moral imperative – at all costs.’
Mr Pezzullo steered clear of questions about whether Australia should further expand its own refugee intake.
But he said there were less than 100,000 places available in the US, Canada and Australia combined, while there were one million “resettlement ready” refugees around the world.
‘Globally, something has to happen … the rest of the world needs to step up on the permanent (refugee resettlement) side,’ he said.
Mr Pezzullo also stressed the need to crush people smuggling operations in the same way terrorist organisations and networks of insurgents must be torn apart.
‘You’ve got to destroy the smugglers’ model, you’ve got to absolutely rip it apart,’ he said.
‘It’s not about simply pushing them off into another theatre, this will need concerted global action.’
But it was impossible for countries to simply militarise or arrest their way out of the people smuggling problem, and creating safe refugee resettlement pathways was also critical, Mr Pezzullo said.
There are more than 65 million displaced people across the world, roughly 40 million of whom are within their own countries and upwards of 20 million across borders.