CANBERRA, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- The Australian government has cut the nation's yearly humanitarian refugee intake by 5,000.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday night handed down the federal budget for 2020/21, which introduced a new cap of 13,750 places in Australia for humanitarian refugees every year, down more than a quarter from the previous cap of 18,750.
According to budget papers the move will save the government almost one billion Australian dollars (710.4 million U.S. dollars) at a time of unprecedented spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Over four years from 2020/21, this measure will result in an overall reduction in expenditure of 958.3 million AUD (680.8 million USD) and revenue reduction of 47 million AUD (33.3 million USD)," the papers said.
However, the decision has been slammed by refugee advocates who were hoping the budget would include additional support for asylum seekers amid the pandemic.
Jana Favero, director of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), described the move as "a blow for the humane treatment of refugees."
"To see that not only is there no extension of support, but actually a cutting of humanitarian intake, is devastating," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
"It does seem very short-sighted, very senseless, and most of all cruel, because there's no reason to do this at all."
Paul Power, head of the Refugee Council of Australia, said the news was "shattering".
"What really shocked us...was the fact that this is a permanent cut to the refugee and humanitarian program. This isn't a government saying: 'We need to slow the program down because of the unusual situation that we're in'," he said.
"This is actually the Government using the pandemic to make a permanent cut to the program." Enditem