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WONG ON PALESTINIAN VISAS

‘Stringent vetting’ call

"The community will want to know who is selecting the candidates for the visas and who is doing the security screening," says Colin Rubenstein

Foreign Minister Penny Wong. Photo: Peter Haskin
Foreign Minister Penny Wong. Photo: Peter Haskin

A government decision to issue 860 temporary visas to Gazans has raised security concerns for Australians, particularly for the Jewish community.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin told The AJN, “Having arrived in Australia as a refugee myself, I feel great sympathy for those fleeing authoritarianism to find a better life. But we have to face the reality that for 17 years Hamas has exercised absolute control over all aspects of Gazan society and relentlessly conditioned Palestinian schoolchildren to hatred and violence, particularly towards Jews.

“This being the case, anyone seeking entry to Australia from Gaza should be subject to stringent vetting for allegiances to terror organisations and support for atrocities to ensure that the security and stability of our country is not compromised,” he said.

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein noted, “Australia has a long tradition of providing temporary visas and other similar visas and that should continue, especially for civilians at risk, but the community needs to be assured that thorough and proper security and safety checks will be undertaken.

“The community will want to know who is selecting the candidates for the visas and who is doing the security screening.

“Given that Gaza is a territory whose governing authority is a murderous, listed terrorist organisation in Australia, detailed scrutiny would seem to be required to ensure Hamas activists and supporters – or even worse, Hamas terrorists – are not inadvertently admitted into Australia.”

Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister James Paterson said he wants reassurance from the government that the visa process was based on “rigorous scrutiny”.

Wong later told media, “I would emphasise very clearly that the usual security checks, the usual identity checks and the usual character checks were undertaken on this cohort as they are in relation to all cohorts.”

Contacted by The AJN, a spokesperson for the Foreign Minister said this week that Wong “stands by her response” and that the number of visas issued was “not unprecedented” for an emergency situation.

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