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Australia to take 12000 Syrians, expand bombing on IS

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By NewsGram News Desk

Canberra: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is the latest head of state joining the international chorus of ‘taking refugees’ and ‘attacking IS’. Abbott said on Wednesday that Australia will permanently take 12,000 refugees from war-torn Syria and will expand its bombing mission against IS into Syria “within days”.

This refugee intake would be on the top of Australia’s annual commitment of taking in 13,750 refugees from around the world, Xinhua news agency reported.

29-Tony-Abbott-AFP“Australia will re-settle an additional 12,000 refugees from the Syria/Iraq conflict,” Abbott announced at a media conference.

“These will be permanent resettlement places over and above Australia’s existing humanitarian program of 13,750 this year, which rises to 18,750 in 2018-19, the prime minister said.

Abbott said “Our focus for these new, 12,000 resettlement places will be those most in need of permanent protection… women, children and families from persecuted minorities who have sought temporary refuge in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey… the most vulnerable of all.”

Abbott said while he would like the resettlement to occur “as quickly as possible”, background checks would be taking place.

Earlier, however, he had stated that the nation would include the Syrian number in its annual commitment itself. The latest statement means that the PM has listened to the international cry on helping the Syrian refugees.

At the same press conference, the government also said it would allocate $30.1 million to aid agencies working in the Middle East just a day after the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) slammed Australia for its lack of contributions in 2015.

“We will directly pay for the support of 240,000 displaced people in countries neighboring Syria and Iraq through the UNHCR and other agencies,” Abbott said.

Meanwhile, Australia has also signed off on expanding air force operations into Syria.

Abbot said Australia’s national security committee had rubber-stamped the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) expansion into Syria, saying operation could begin “within days”.

Australia already runs bombing mission against IS forces in Iraq, but Abbott said it was time to defeat IS at its source in Syria.

“We cannot defeat Daesh in Iraq unless we defeat Daesh in Syria,” Abbot said.

“I emphasize that our aircraft will be targeting IS, not the Assad regime, evil though it is,” the prime minister said.

With inputs from IANS

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Australia Becomes World’s First Country To Pass Bill Accessing Encrypted Information

Tech giant Apple said in October that “it would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat.”

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Social Media, digital, Encryption
This photo taken March 22, 2018, shows apps for WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and other social networks on a smartphone. VOA

Security agencies will gain greater access to encrypted messages under new laws in Australia. The legislation will force technology companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google to disable encryption protections to allow investigators to track the communications of terrorists and other criminals. It is, however, a controversial measure.

Australian law enforcement officials say the growth of end-to-end encryption in applications such as Signal, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage hamper their efforts to track the activities of criminals and extremists.

End-to-end encryption is a code that allows a message to stay secret between the person who wrote it and the recipient.

Data Recovery, encryption
The website of the Telegram messaging app is seen on a computer’s screen in Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 13, 2018. A Russian court has ordered the blocking of a popular messaging app following a demand by authorities that it share encryption data with them. VOA

PM: Law urgently needed

But a new law passed Thursday in Australia compels technology companies, device manufacturers and service providers to build in features needed for police to crack those hitherto secret codes. However, businesses will not have to introduce these features if they are considered “systemic weaknesses,” which means they are likely to result in compromised security for other users.

The Australian legislation is the first of its kind anywhere.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new law was urgently needed because encoded messaging apps allowed “terrorists and organized criminals and … pedophile rings to do their evil work.”

Critics: Law goes too far

However, critics, including technology companies, human rights groups, and lawyers, believe the measure goes too far and gives investigators “unprecedented powers to access encrypted communications.”

Google, Australia, encryption
A smartphone and computer screen display the Google home page. Australia is one step closer to forcing tech firms to give police access to encrypted data. VOA

Francis Galbally, the chairman of the encryption provider Senetas, says the law will send Australia’s tech sector into reverse.

“We will lose some of the greatest mathematicians and scientists this country has produced, and I can tell you because I employ a lot of them, they are fabulous, they are well regarded, but the world will now regard them if they stay in this country as subject to the government making changes to what they are doing in order to spy on everybody,” he said.

Galbally also claims that his company could lose clients to competitors overseas because it cannot guarantee its products have not been compromised by Australian authorities.

Also Read: Australia Shows Promise In Treatment of Multiple Scelrosis

Tech giant Apple said in October that “it would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat.”

The new law includes penalties for noncompliance. (VOA)