The program will allow Australians to form a group to welcome a refugee household to their area, helping them to settle in their new home. The scheme is modelled on a Canadian scheme that has resettled more than 325,000 refugees over 40 years.
Refugees in urgent need of resettlement will be supported by local community groups under a new pilot program aiming to guide and support new arrivals.
The Community Refugee Integration and Settlement Pilot will enable community supporter groups to assist refugees to access accommodation, local orientation, education and government services.
Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia (CRSA) trains and deploys community groups under the program, to help refugees needing urgent resettlement as identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
CRSA CEO Lisa Button lobbied alongside several non-government organisations and charities for more than four years to establish the program, approved by the Morrison government late last year.
“It is wonderful to see it come to fruition and to see Australians from all walks of life signing up to be trained in the process,” Ms Button said.
The model is based on a successful Canadian policy launched in 1978.
“Under that program, everyday Canadians have sponsored more than 325,000 refugees into the community, in addition to the government assistance refugee programme,” Ms Button said.
Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said refugees supported by the program were currently counted under Australia’s existing humanitarian intake for now.
“This is about everyday Australians looking at what is happening around the world and wanting to lend a hand,” Mr Giles said ahead of a visit to a community group in Gosford on Friday.
At this stage, 1,500 new refugees will be supported through the program while it runs from now until 2025. The refugees will be referred by the UNHCR to the Australian government for resettlement.
Mr Giles indicated he would like to see the 1,500 number increased eventually to 5,000 annually.
Former Congolese refugee and CRSA Community Engagement Manager Blaise Itabelo understands local support first-hand.
“When I came to Australia, I was lucky enough to stumble into a friendship with an Australian man and his family, who helped me build a new life, and feel likeI belong,” Mr Itabelo said.
“He rented a truck to help me collect second-hand furniture for my first flat…and gave me his old laptop, which I used to apply for my first job.”
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