When contacted for comment about this FactCheck, a spokesperson for Senator Cory Bernardi wrote back with this response.
“Sources to substantiate the Senator’s statements include Andrew Harper (UNHCR country director) comments made on the ABC PM program:
ANDREW HARPER: When people are talking about focusing only on minorities, that’s not necessarily a true reflection of the people who are probably most at risk. So if people start pushing the minority card or the religious card, we are going to be pushing that back and saying this is not the most important element for us.
SOPHIE MCNEILL: Andrew Harper says the UN won’t be swayed by any pressure when it comes to referring Syrian refugee cases to Australia, or any other country.
ANDREW HARPER: We do not take too much notice of what politicians anywhere in the world have to say. Some are being very forthright in their positions. What we will do is remain objective and focus on the criteria which we have, which is vulnerability.
On registration of refugees, this article:
Government sources believe drafting of the September 9 decision has undermined the clear intention of cabinet, which was to concentrate on the most persecuted groups who could not return to their homes in Syria. These included Christians, Yazidis and Jews, who would form the bulk of the extra refugees accepted.
A requirement included in the decision — that the UNHCR had to register the refugees — meant those who are displaced in Syria or living in tents or with family members outside the official UN camps were not registered.
Concern among Christian groups, particularly the Oriental Christian churches, which include the Copts, Melkites, Antiochian Orthodox, Maronite and Assyrians, has spiked as evidence flows from the US that the UNHCR will not give Christians priority, and has indicated a majority of the refugees going to the US will be Muslim.
Eastern Christian Welfare Australia, which represents 12 churches and is trying to identify genuine refugees, said last night it believed the current system was failing to target "vulnerable minorities who cannot obtain UNHCR registration; who do not live in refugee camps; and who do not have immediate family members to propose them”.
In a statement to The Weekend Australian, the welfare group said Christians were afraid to go to the official refugee camps because they were predominantly filled with Muslims and had also been infiltrated by the terror fighters. “Vulnerable Christian and minority refugees who are not registered with the UNHCR or who do not have immediate family members in Australia are caught up in the bureaucracy,” the statement said.
“The requirement for refugees to be registered with UNHCR is causing concern. There is a strong view within church groups that the government should use the Special Humanitarian Program, which has previously been used to relocate Copts from Egypt, more widely.