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Australia delivering on Syrian refugee promise

30 March 20170 comments

Australia is close to resettling the 12,000 refugees from the conflict in Syria and Iraq it committed to urgently accepting more than a year ago, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said.

The Prime Minister said all 12,000 visas have been issued visas and more than 10,000 people have already been brought from Middle Eastern refugee camps to Australia.

Speaking at the recent Australia Settlement and Migration Awards held in Canberra Mr Turnbull said Australia ran the world’s third largest permanent refugee resettlement program, which would increasing by 35 per cent to 18,750 in coming years.

“Because of our combination of security and compassion, in 2015 we were able to commit to resettling an additional 12,000 people displaced by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq – prioritising those assessed as most vulnerable and with the least prospect of returning home safely, including women, children, families and persecuted minorities,” the Prime Minister said.

“I am proud that we have now issued all 12,000 visas to those most in need,” he said.

“We have maintained rigorous checks on security. No security standards have been compromised in any way. We have ensured and maintained strong public support and there are over 10,000 of that number already calling Australia home.

“No matter their circumstances, everyone who comes to this country knows—like the millions who came before them—that Australia is a nation that has been built by the hands, wits and the ambition of its immigrants.

“We welcome newcomers with open arms and mutual respect because we are confident in our culture, our institutions and our laws.

“In return, our newest Australians pledge loyalty to Australia and its people, affirm our shared democratic beliefs and agree to respect and uphold our liberties, rights and laws.

“This is the precious compact that binds those of us already here with those who wish to join us. Citizenship offers rights but it also confers the responsibility to integrate and contribute, the Prime Minister said.

About 3000 refugees have been settled in Victoria since the Federal Government’s announcement it would take extra refugees from the conflicts in Syria – 80 per cent of these are Syrians and Iraqis

Most have been settled in the northern and western suburbs – where there are existing communities of Syrians and Iraqis who have welcomed the new arrivals.

Refugee and migrant settlement agency AMES Australia is supporting these refugees through a number of programs which provide initial orientation to a new culture and society, help in connecting with services such as education and health, assistance with finding accommodation and help with finding work or study pathways.

AMES Australia also employs community guides who are former refugees themselves and can help new arrivals navigate an unfamiliar society.

The guides help with everything from where to shop for culturally appropriate food, to how to use a Myki card, to how to make an appointment to see a doctor.

AMES Australia CEO Cath Scarth said although well supported newly arrived refuges still faced challenges

“The challenges refugees face include finding work; there can be language barriers and a lack of local experience,” Ms Scarth said.

“We at AMES Australia provide language tuition and help in finding employment through the jobactive network and we are also running job readiness pilot programs,” she said.

Ms Scarth said delays in finding appropriate and affordable accommodation was also a challenge and AMES Australia has a dedicated accommodation team helping new arrivals secure suitable rental homes.

“And in some cases refugees may have suffered or witnessed violent events or have suffered torture or trauma. AMES Australia refers people to specialist health care,” she said.

“Also extra funding from the Victorian Government has seen the establishment of Settlement Health Coordinator positions co-located with AMES Australia settlement teams to build the capacity of settlement and health services to respond,” Ms Scarth said.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist