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Inner West Independent

Council calls for refugee action

Protesters march for refugee rights Photo: John Englart.

By Lilli Sekkai

The Inner West Council has called on the Federal Government to reverse cuts to the Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) for asylum seekers living in the community.

In a motion passed unanimously at its meeting on July 24, the Council expressed concern that the cuts to the program, which provides assistance to asylum seekers who are waiting for their cases to be decided, would have a “devastating impact” on people seeking asylum.

“As a multicultural and welcoming community, we totally reject the unnecessary and cruel refugee policies pursued by successive Labor and Liberal governments,” said Inner West Councillor Tom Kiat.

“We need our local representatives… to accept the call to end offshore and onshore detention and to treat refugees with solidarity and compassion, not cruelty,” he said.

Mums 4 Refugees action group National Convenor Dulce Munoz says in the wake of the cuts it will fall on Sydney councils to make sure the community doesn’t leave the most vulnerable behind.

“SRSS services are a life line to thousands, and our community-based organisations – which are already stretched – will not be able to provide the basic needs for people cast off the service,” she said.

At the meeting the Council also voted to call on the Federal Government to implement an improved Community Support Program (CSP) and resolved to promote refugee community sponsorship in the inner west area.

The CSP allows community groups, businesses, families and individuals to “sponsor” a refugee.

Supporters help asylum seekers get visas, assist them in community integration, and commit to supporting them financially for their first year out on their own.

The program does not come cheap, with the cost for visa applications alone usually topping $30,000.

Recipients must also commit to living in a regional area, limiting opportunities for potential sponsors living in cities.

Praveena Gunaratnam, Convenor for Amnesty International NSW Refugee Network, said “The Federal government is responsible for Australia’s overall humanitarian program and ensuring systems and programs are in place to support refugees to resettle and integrate in Australia.

“They are accountable to us, the Australian public, which is why we should call on them to implement an improved CSP which would allow Australia to play a greater role in helping people in need,” she said.

According to the resolution, the Inner West Council will specifically ask not to take places from other visa applicants, instead asking for an increase in the overall refugee intake and adequate support and services, limiting the cost for sponsors.

Furthermore, Council will communicate with the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative to seek information on how councils can support the initiative’s work further.

Cr Kiat said a well-designed CSP would be warmly welcomed by Council and the Inner West community.

“I’m proud to be part of a community that acknowledges the scale of the global refugee crisis and wants to help,” he said.

“Council has an important advocacy role to play in the refugee space.”