I explained in last week’s Extra, Australia is not pulling its weight in accepting refugees. In fact there are 33 other developed countries that are more generous in their response to global need.
But while Australia is far from generous in the number of refugee placements it provides, it does make basic provision for those it accepts.
Of the 13,756 refugees settled here in 2014-15, just over 11,000 were part of the offshore component. This means they received their visas for permanent Australian settlement while overseas.
The Australian government fully sponsors and settles many offshore visa holders. Relatives in Australia or voluntary organisations, such as Armidale Sanctuary Humanitarian Settlement, propose and, if government-approved, bring the remainder. For this last group, Sanctuary responds to all needs not met by government-contracted bodies, including airfares and most of the early settlement organising and support.
Many people believe our government provides more than it actually does. It provides basic necessities only. It does not provide the cars, the rental bonds etc that some people claim.
Settlers have the same monetary entitlements as other Australians. They receive exactly the same Centrelink payments and Medicare provisions. They pay the same school, higher education and other fees.
Offshore refugees are entitled to some counselling and programs. The only additional government help they receive is some very basic household goods.
Refugees who flee extreme danger rarely manage to take more than a change of clothes and some immediate food. I can remember meeting a family on their arrival in Armidale. Each of the adults and their four children carried one plastic bag with their most treasured possessions. This was all they had.
Community groups and individuals often donate essential items. Our town is very generous in its response to need and Sanctuary provides a warm, informative and supportive welcome. Armidale has opened its arms to refugees.
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