Dutton, member of the country’s conservative coalition government, made the remarks in an interview with Sky News, where he criticised a proposal of raising to 50,000 the number of refugees Australia admits annually, on humanitarian grounds.
“They won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English. These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that,” Dutton said.
According to the minister, the arrival of such numbers would put pressure on the “scarce resources” of the country, including public housing, jobs, medical care and hospital beds.
Dutton’s statements led to an outcry from the opposition, including Labour leader Bill Shorten, who demanded Dutton to apologise for his comments.
Dutton “didn’t just insult refugees when he made those comments. He insulted the millions of migrants who’ve contributed to making this a truly great country,” said Shorten.
However, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull came out in Dutton’s defence, and said, “Everybody that comes to Australia, we want to be able to seek employment. We want to be sure that they have got the skills to do so.”
The Australian government’s current humanitarian programme planned to admit 13,750 refugees last year, 16,250 this year and increase the number to 18,750 in 2018.
The country has a strict immigration policy, including deporting boats carrying asylum seekers that attempt to enter the country by the sea route illegally, and their detention or relocation in third countries.