Refugees in urgent need of resettlement will be supported by local community groups under a new pilot program aimed at guiding new arrivals.
The Community Refugee Integration and Settlement Pilot enables community support groups to help refugees access accommodation, local orientation, education and government services.
Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia (CRSA) trains and deploys community groups under its program to assist refugees in urgent need of resettlement identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
CRSA CEO Lisa Button has been lobbying with several non-governmental organizations and charities for over four years to establish the program, which was approved by the Morrison government late last year. .
“It’s great to see it come to fruition and Australians from all walks of life sign up to be trained in the process,” Button said.
This model builds on Canada’s successful policy initiated in 1978.
“Under that program, in addition to the government’s refugee assistance program, Canadians have routinely sponsored more than 325,000 refugees into their communities,” Button said.
Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said refugees assisted by the program are currently counted against Australia’s existing humanitarian refugee intake, but the government would consider expanding the pilot.
“Through these programs, we will see up to 5,000 sites, which will be added to the list of government-supported resettlement sites,” Giles said Friday.
“Community sponsorship programs can change not only the lives of those in need of resettlement, but our country.
“The world now has the largest number of displaced people in human history.”
Blaise Itabello, a former Congolese refugee and CRSA Community Engagement Manager, understands local support firsthand.
“When I came to Australia, I was fortunate enough to make friendships with Australian men and their families. Itabello said.
“He rented a truck and helped me collect used furniture for my first apartment…and gave me the old laptop I used to apply for my first job.”
According to UNHCR, there are over 27 million refugees in the world and more than 2 million are expected to need resettlement this year.
The federal government has cut the number of Australian humanitarian refugees to 27,000 annually after the Morrison government cut the cap by more than a quarter to 13,750 last year and issued less than 6,000 visas in the 2020-21 period. I plan to increase it gradually.
Hannah Dickinson, lead attorney at the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, said an increase in Australia’s humanitarian aid had been long overdue.
“Community support for refugees should be in addition to humanitarian acceptance rather than contributing to the cap,” Dickinson said.
“We really support initiatives and actual programs that increase community engagement with refugees and asylum-seekers.”