Syrian refugees walk towards a crossing point at Greece's border with Macedonia, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 8, 2015. Greece asked the European Union for aid to prevent it being overwhelmed by refugees, as a minister said arrivals on Lesbos had swollen to three times as many as the island could handle. Reuters/Yannis Behrakis

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has formally announced the Cabinet's decision to allow 12,000 more refugees into the country, along with a $44 million aid package to support 24,000 displaced refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan through the United Nations, to deal with the refugee crisis in Europe. The Cabinet met on Wednesday to take a call on the issue.

Mr Abbott said that Australia would be moving quickly to resettle the refugees after they go through regular security checks, which will include health and character checks. The prime minister also said that while Australia will be trying to resettle the 12,000 additional refugees as quickly as possible, the government will not putting a timetable on it because of the checks.

“It is important we act with our head as well as our heart here,” Mr Abbott said on the policy that targets ethnic and religious minorities, particularly women, children and families - groups he called “the most vulnerable of all”.

Australia will furthermore be providing economic support through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to 24,000 displaced people in countries neighbouring Syria and Iraq. The amount is around AU$44 million, which will bring the total figure up to AU$230 million for the current humanitarian crisis.

“With the coming winter, there are urgent needs to provide basic equipment and support, shelter kits, clean safe, drinking water, food, support for women and girls, and so we have come up with this package to support 240,000 people,” foreign minister Julie Bishop said regarding the further aid package. “This additional assistance will be very timely. We can do it immediately.”

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton flew to Geneva earlier this week to discuss ways in which Australia could increase its efforts in resolving the humanitarian crisis that ensued in Syria as a result of a civil war. Australia was initially reluctant to increase its annual refugee quota over 13,000, with Cabinet Minister Christopher Pyne saying that Australia has already been doing much more for the homeless refugees than Germany, France or the U.K.

The Abbott government had also wanted to restrict the intake to Christian minorities in Syria amidst demands to allow a larger number of refugees into the country. Labor wanted the government to let in 10,000 more refugees, whereas the Greens had been pushing to double that number.

Cabinet Ministers also joined the call for increasing the humanitarian role of Australia. While communications minister Malcolm Turnbull demanded to allow more Syrian Christians to take refuge in Australia, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop advocated for other Syrian minorities like Yazidis.

"[Syrian Christians] are a minority, they survived in Syria, they've been there for thousands of years, literally since the time of Christ," Turnbull said. "But in an increasingly sectarian Middle East, you have to ask whether the, the gaps, the spaces that they were able to live and survive in will any longer be available."

However, the government's final decision will allow the intake of refugees from different religious and ethnic minority groups. “We have a colour-blind policy in terms of humanitarian support and that will not be changing,” Pyne said in Canberra on Wednesday.

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