City of Parramatta shows strong leadership and welcomes refugees

The Parramatta River. According to the government, Parramatta hosts the second largest number of asylum seekers arriving by boat living on bridging visas in NSW (1948 persons).

The Parramatta River. According to the government, Parramatta hosts the second largest number of asylum seekers arriving by boat living on bridging visas in NSW (1948 persons).

“The City of Parramatta has a long history of welcoming many thousands of refugees and people seeking asylum. Becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone recognises council’s ongoing commitment and support for refugees.”

National, state and local bodies have welcomed the commitment by the City of Parramatta in formalising their strong leadership in welcoming refugees into their city by becoming the latest Council to join the Refugee Welcome Zone initiative.

A few weeks ago, the Jesuit Refugee Service, the Sisters of Mercy Parramatta, and the Refugee Council of Australia, together approached the City of Parramatta to propose that the council become a Refugee Welcome Zone, a national initiative recognising local government areas that make a commitment in spirit to welcoming refugees into the community and acknowledging the positive contribution refugees make to society.

On the 10th October, 2016, the City of Parramatta, led by Administrator, Amanda Chadwick, formally endorsed this recommendation and at a ceremony planned for later this year, Parramatta will become a Refugee Welcome Zone.

Maeve Brown, Manager of Jesuit Refugee Service’s Arrupe Project, which provides casework support, emergency relief, legal assistance and social and educational support to people seeking asylum said, “The City of Parramatta has a long history of welcoming many thousands of refugees and people seeking asylum. Becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone recognises council’s ongoing commitment and support for refugees.”

The Sisters of Mercy Parramatta also welcomed the endorsement by the City of Parramatta. “The Council’s decision demonstrates a commitment in spirit to welcoming refugees into our local community, upholding the human rights of refugees and demonstrating both compassion and an understanding of the suffering and traumas many of these people have endured,” said Sister Catherine Ryan, Congregation Leader.

Sr Catherine also acknowledged that becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone is an important recognition of the tremendous contribution refugees have made over the years to enhancing the religious and cultural diversity of the Australian community.

The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) Acting Chief Executive Officer, Tim O’Connor, said the Refugee Welcome Zone initiative was a simple and effective way local councils could exercise positive leadership on refugee issues.

“Since Federation, Australia has welcomed more than 840,000 refugees and local councils have a proud history of helping support the settlement of refugees who have gone on to make a profound contribution to our economic, cultural and social life.”

Recent research from RCOA across the 143 Refugee Welcome Zone signatory councils found those with large numbers of humanitarian arrivals, like Parramatta, have developed extensive services and activities.

However, Refugee Welcome Zones with smaller refugee populations are also active in implementing support and assistance to the increasing diversity of their community.

“Activities and initiatives introduced by local councils in Australia include local partnerships with community groups and service providers, Refugee Week and Harmony Week events, public forums, living libraries and community-based projects.”

Mr O’Connor encouraged more local councils to consider becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone.

“The process for becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone is straightforward. Councils simply sign a declaration to welcome refugees, uphold their human rights, demonstrate compassion for new arrivals and enhance cultural and religious diversity. How councils implement the pledge is entirely up to them.”

The Refugee Welcome Zone report is available here http://refugeecouncil.org.au/g/131219_RWZ.pdf.

For further information about Refugee Welcome Zones http://refugeecouncil.org.au/g/rwz.php

For further information

Oliver White
Jesuit Refugee Service Australia
Tel: +61 2 9356 3888
Email: oliver.white@jrs.org.au
Twitter: @JRS_Aus

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