Last week, Barnaby Joyce called on his colleagues to open their hearts, and our borders, to more Syrian refugees. What prompted the cri de coeur? A fellow accountant.

“As an accountant myself, when you see an accountant walking across the border into Hungary from Syria when his life has been destroyed I feel a sense of empathy for him,” the Agriculture Minister said.

Today the Refugee Action Collective has pointed out that there’s a Syrian accountant currently being held at a detention centre in Sydney who could do with a little of Joyce’s empathy.

“Barnaby Joyce has only got to look to the Villawood detention centre to find a Syrian accountant asylum seeker who has been in detention over two years,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the RAC. “He spent a year on Manus Island and now a year in Villawood. It is time he was freed from detention.”

Rintoul points out that there are plenty of other Syrians holed up in our secretive detention centres, too: “It is sheer hypocrisy for the government to express any concerns at all for the Syrian asylum seekers fleeing to Europe while it condemns Syrian asylum seekers seeking protection in Australia to indefinite detention on and off shore.”

If we go by the Joyce rule of empathy, all the accountants, lawyers and trade union hacks should have their asylum claims processed in no time. Everyone else, join the (non-existent) queue.

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Peter Fray

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