Settlement Services International has secured short term accommodation for Armidale's refugee resettlement families

A NEW LEASE ON LIFE: Settlement Services International manager of humanitarian settlement Yamama Agha prepares Armidale for refugees.
A NEW LEASE ON LIFE: Settlement Services International manager of humanitarian settlement Yamama Agha prepares Armidale for refugees.

EIGHT refugee families will be the first to arrive in Armidale next year.

And, finally, short term accommodation has been secured.

Settlement Services International manager Yamama Agha is responsible for moving them in.

“From the day that they arrive at the airport there will be staff to meet and welcome them,” Ms Agha said.

“These people at no fault of their own have to leave everything behind, they have to leave their countries and everything they own behind in search of safety.”

SSI settles more than 3000 refugees in Sydney each year.

All refugees that are granted a permanent visa must go through rigorous character, health and security checks.

It’s something we do well in Australia, Ms Agha said.

“We have not had any issue with any of the refugees that have come to Australia in the past few years.

“There isn’t one who has said “I don’t like Australia.”

“They’re grateful to be here and they want to work hard to give back to the Australian community and government because we gave them the opportunity to be safe.”

The biggest barriers for these families are language and employment.

Many were skilled workers in their home country, employed as engineers, bakers, doctors or teachers.

Translating those skills into meaningful work in Australia can be difficult, Ms Agha said.

“Refugees bring a lot of skills and experience with them, they are people who are resilient, skilled and they improve the economy,” she said.

“Sometimes they come with qualifications from overseas but they aren’t recognised in Australia.

“Even if they are skilled refugees in some cases we find that they actually can’t find meaningful employment.”

An office will open in January for SSI staff to coordinate the settlement.

Ms Agha said Armidale can expect to see an improvement in the economy.

“With more people coming to the region you need more services, more doctors, teachers,” she said.

“It will boost the economy and revive the region.”