Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sudanese refugee program ends as arrivals dwindle

By Alex Johnson
16 Nov, 2009 04:00 AM

AFTER securing almost $1 million to help 93 Sudanese refugees settle in Warrnambool, an apparent lack of arrivals has brought the six-year program to an end.

Warrnambool City Council has been forced to wind up its Migrant Relocation Program because "there are no refugees seeking resettlement in the south-west region", according to a statement.

But Sudanese Community Group chairperson Otha Akoch said at least one family of seven was eager to make a new life in the city and refugees from other war-torn countries could arrive any day.

A Sudanese mother-of-five, who had already settled in Tasmania, was in Warrnambool looking for accommodation before she brought the rest of the family to the city, he added.

The loss of the funding would force the community to reduce the activities it organised to help new arrivals integrate into the broader community, Mr Akoch said.

He understood that the city council was not responsible for the decision, but he appealed to the State and Federal governments to recognise the value of continued support for those who had recently arrived in Warrnambool.

The migrant relocation program ensured the community had access to education, training, child care, housing and transport services.

It also helped fund multicultural events, women's groups, sport and recreation activities, a youth camp, men's group, art, drama activity, health promotion and a youth in sport project.

"It's something we have to accept as a reality," Mr Akoch said.

"I don't know what will be the fate of those who want to arrive."

The council's acting community development director, Russell Lineham, said the council had secured several grants, totalling more than $980,000, from the Federal and State governments as well as national philanthropic trusts to keep the program running.

A lack of new arrivals meant the money was now going elsewhere, he said.

"The Government and other organisations were directing their funding to areas where there was a high level of refugee resettlement throughout Australia," he said.

The council will retain the contract for the Immigration Department's Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Support Scheme.

The Warrnambool program has received several awards and is used by the Refugee Council of Australia to measure the success of council involvement in refugee settlement.

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