City reaffirms refugee support

Newcastle has proudly been a Refugee Welcome Zone since 2015 and our city has long been at the forefront of local government in providing real and symbolic support for refugees settling in Australia.

With Dr Kevin Sweeney of Amnesty International Newcastle

With Dr Kevin Sweeney of Amnesty International Newcastle

Now, along with Amnesty International, we are calling upon the Australian Government to improve and expand its refugee community support program (CSP).

The community sponsorship model empowers ordinary members of the community to sponsor refugees to begin to rebuild their lives, in safety, in Australia.

While we support the government's intention to assist refugees through the CSP, the reality is that visa costs are prohibitive, the eligibility criteria are far too restrictive, and every place filled under the CSP is taken off the humanitarian refugee intake, so there is no net increase in the number of refugees accepted into Australia.

We are asking for these significant improvements to be made:

  • Ensure that the intake of refugeesunder community sponsorship is in addition to the existing humanitarian intake

  • Adopt a more affordable visa fee structure

  • Broaden the eligibility criteria for the CSP

  • Increase the annual intake of refugees to 27,000 by 2025 through the CSP and humanitarian intake

  • Provide support services including access to Medicare, education and English language tuition to assist refugees to integrate successfully into our communities

As a Council, we are willing to do even more to assist new Novocastrians but we can't do it alone. The international refugee crisis also demands increased action and support by the Federal Government.

There are currently 65 million displaced people in the world and 22 million of these are refugees.

City of Newcastle is one of almost 150 local councils across the country that have declared ourselves as Refugee Welcome Zones, and the local Newcastle Amnesty action group has been supporting human rights for 30 years.

Matt Murray