Australia offers community resettlement assistance for new refugees

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Refugees arriving in Australia this week from Syria, Afghanistan and Myanmar will receive assistance under a new resettlement scheme. Migrants will be welcomed by specially trained community support groups who will help them resettle and integrate into their new communities.

The $6 million Community Refugee Integration and Settlement pilot initiative aims to help 1,500 refugees in Australia over the next three years.

It will help newcomers who do not have family ties to Australia and provide support and advice for 12 months.

Officials said the local program will put newcomers in immediate contact with other migrants and trained members of the Australian community.

Lisa Button, chief executive of Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia, a charity that helps new migrants, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that the resettlement initiative is important.

“We are delighted with this program, and it is truly a new chapter in the history of refugee resettlement in Australia,” she said. “There are so many benefits, both for the refugees and for the Australian community and the volunteers who have done this work. When the refugees arrive, they arrive in a ready-made group of local supporters who are deeply invested in their success. So these people meet them at the airport, they help them open bank accounts and enroll the children in school.

Australia currently issues approximately 14,000 humanitarian visas to refugees each year. The recently elected Labor government has said it hopes to eventually double the number of refugees in Australia.

Immigration has been a fundamental part of Australian history since European settlement in 1788. Almost half of the population of around 25 million people have a parent born overseas, while a quarter of Australians are born abroad.

The first Australian refugees came from European countries around the time of the Second World War. In the 1970s, Australia resettled over 55,000 Vietnamese. Since then, thousands of people from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and other countries have found refuge in Australia under official humanitarian programmes.

However, asylum seekers arriving by sea have been dealt with under different policies.

Since 2013 to 2014, people who have sought asylum in Australia after coming by boat have not been granted permanent protection.

They were previously held in Australian-sponsored camps in the South Pacific with no prospect of resettlement in Australia. The policy has been condemned as cruel and inhumane by rights groups, but the government says it has prevented migrants from risking their lives at sea. Currently, unauthorized boat arrivals are kicked out or their boats are towed or diverted from Australian waters by the Navy.

A detention center in Papua New Guinea has closed and around 100 migrants are still on the island of Nauru.

Campaigners said the result of May’s federal election which saw the centre-left Labor Party come to power is a clear sign that Australians want a more humane and compassionate country for refugees.

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