UCA President’s Syrian Refugee Appeal
The UCA National, Stuart McMillan, has launched an appeal for Syrian Refugees; the letter is here.
Lin Hatfield Dodds, the National Director of UnitingCare Australia, has circulated the following information in response to the offers of assistance for the refugees to be taken up by Australia:
- There will be no “allocation” of people. The new intake of Syrian refugees will come to Australia to be permanently settled. As such, they will settle where they choose.
- Until we are able to find the persecuted groups that the Australian Government has prioritised, assess them, stablise them, and work with them, we do not know where they will wish to settle.
- We do know that refugees more often than not choose to start off life in a new country near people they know, or at least, people from their own country and culture.
- We know that around 70% of the Syrian refugees resettled in Australia to date live in Sydney.
- The new intake of refugees will not be going into people’s homes. It would be really good to get this message out. They will be coming under the Settlement scheme and are thus entitled to housing and supports as they settle. As importantly, these are people who are coming to Australia directly out of the crisis situation. They will be severely traumatised. Our UnitingCare agencies will play a key role in this mobilisation of professional services.
- What we will need from UCA members is people to welcome our incoming traumatised, resilient and hopeful friends into their lives as friends and into their communities. This must be a long run and genuine welcoming to really integrate people into Australian life.
- In addition to this group of 12,000 in the spotlight, there are around 20,000 asylum seekers in Melbourne and 10,000 in Sydney (and I presume large numbers elsewhere) who have no status. This means that they are not allowed to work. They are not eligible for housing assistance, or unemployment benefits. They cannot access Medicare. They live supported by amazing Australians from churches and other movements. It is this population that we might consider welcoming into our homes and donating goods and money to. We are looking to hold a roundtable with the Catholic church to explore leveraging the current outpouring of practical love in ways that will improve the lives of those many invisible people who struggle to live in Australia having fled crisis in their own countries of origin.
- Finally, timing. We may receive some Syrian permanent settling refugees before Christmas. That’s the hope and plan. Or we may not. These processes take time. The Government has established a national taskforce (that I sit on) which itself has established a suite of expert working groups who are getting on with the very focussed job of preparation. I will communicate every step of the way with you.
Thank you for your love in action for sisters and brothers from across the world who are fleeing the unimaginable.
Grace and peace