Tweed is joining a push around Australia to identify shires as welcome zones for refugees in the face of a global crisis in displaced people.
Last night Tweed shire councillors voted to join the initiative of the Refugee Council of Australia to make a declaration for the Tweed to be identified as a Refugee Welcome Zone.
The Syrian war alone has seen four million refugees flee their homes into neighbouring countries, and many are looking for shelter in Europe.
Cr Barry Longland. who spearheaded the move, said around 130 local government areas in Australia had now joined the initiative.
‘This initiative is a commitment in spirit to upholding the human rights of refugees and recognition of the enhancement of cultural diversity in our community that they bring,’ Cr Longland said.
The initiative began in June 2002 as part of Refugee Week celebrations which coincides with the United Nations World Refugee Day on 20 June each year.
To mark the occasion of becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone, many councils choose to hold public signing ceremonies.
Cr Longland said ‘these provide an opportunity to highlight the initiative and acknowledge the work of local groups and individuals that support refugees and asylum seekers’.
He said Lismore City Council became a Refugee Welcome Zone in 2007 at a time when the local area was experiencing an increase in the settlement of people from refugee backgrounds.
‘There have been significant changes in the nature of the local refugee population and much of this is as a result of the changes in the Australian Government settlement programs, countries of origin, and refugee settlement services,’ he said..
‘There are no Humanitarian Settlement Services based in the Tweed Shire and it has been difficult to obtain data on the number of refugees that may be settled in the area.
‘The North Coast Primary Health Network Need Assessment states: “Australia accepts 13,500 people per year as part of its Refugee and Humanitarian Program and most have been selected for resettlement from overseas along with a small number of asylum seekers. In NSW, metropolitan Sydney locations receive the majority of arrivals.
* Mid North Coast NSW had 2.2 per cent (571) of all NSW humanitarian arrivals between 2005-2011 which is in the high range for all other regional NSW.
* Northern NSW had 0.4 per cent of arrivals which is higher than the Central Coast and Western Local Health Districts.”
Cr Longland said the nearest Humanitarian Settlement Services were based in Coffs Harbour and Logan City, while Complex Care Support Services are in Grafton and Southport.
‘Within the shire there is a community initiative called the Uki Refugee Project and local people have been welcoming refugees as a friendship and awareness building program,’ he said.