Saturday, April 29, 2017

Bias against the bush in Australian refugee resettlement

In November of last year I reported (From Africa's Great Lakes to Mingoola's Field of Dreams) on Mingoola's successful attempt to settle African refugee families. It had been a bit of a battle because of the belief among officials and refugee agencies that refugees had to close to support agencies and that mainly meant the city. I wrote at the time:
This business of need for adequate support services for refugees has become a major difficulty that actively impedes families moving to country areas . The need to provide adequate (ie modern) housing and support services can actually place refugees in situations where they have good housing and support services but are isolated from the surrounding community without access to work.
In February this year, Armidale was rejected as a location for Syrian refugees on the apparent grounds that the city lacked the necessary support services. I almost went ballistic on this one because the city has very good facilities and access to support.

Meantime down in Tamworth, the Syrian Refugee Project began work early in 2016 to create welcoming conditions and supports for Syrian refugees to allow them to settle in Tamworth.

By mid-April, Project representative and Multicultural Tamworth president Eddie Whitham was expressing acute frustration. Quoting from the Northern Daily Leader of 20 April, 
Mr Whitham and project chief Brian Lincoln have even been actively pursuing the issue through the available channels, but so far it has all been to no avail. 
“We have written letters and made phone calls asking what is happening and when we can expect to get some refugees to settle – so far there has been no answers coming back,” Mr Whitham said. 
“We want to see four families come to Tamworth because we are ready for them now. We could take a dozen families progressively.” 
So Tamworth is ready too, but simply can't get an answer. While all this has been going on, it appears that some 4,000 Syrian refugees have been settled in Sydney's Fairfield. This is partly a matter of refugee choices, but I am left with the uncomfortable feeling that we have a clear pattern of exclusion of non-metro options.  

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