BRISBANE archdiocesan staff have begun meeting with local resettlement agencies as Australia prepares for the arrival of 12,000 refugees fleeing war in the Middle East.
The meetings follow Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s announcement that at least 100 Syrian and Iraqi families would be welcomed into the archdiocese over the next 12 to 18 months and beyond.
Evangelisation Brisbane director Clyde Cosentino said that federally funded resettlement agencies would be co-ordinating local responses to the Federal Government’s commitment to a one-off increase of Australia’s refugee intake, which are an addition to the 13,000 places currently offered each year by the Government to people seeking refuge in Australia.
“The Church has begun meeting with these agencies to determine from them what gaps need to be filled,” Mr Cosentino said.
“The agencies will be the first port of call.
“All persons coming to Australia under this program will be fully funded by the Government through its Commonwealth agencies and assisted through contracted settlement agencies.
“And the Church will be prepared to help where needed.
“We’ve already had enquiries from parishes as to how they can help.
“We’ve told some that they can form groups within parishes to talk about how they can help to support these families in a community sense.
“This is really a time for preparation.”
Mr Cosentino said the archdiocese had been advised that no timeframe had been set for the refugee arrivals as government officials carried out health and security checks, and worked closely with UNHCR.
“Resettlement might happen anywhere between 12 months and 18 months, depending on a number of factors,” he said.
“It will still be some months before the south-east corner of Queensland might see the first influx of families coming here.”
The archdiocese is urging parishioners not to forget the thousands of asylum seekers who are living within communities as they desperately seek permanent residency.
“We already have in our midst thousands of these families who have escaped war-torn countries (including Syria and Iraq) and who seek refuge in Australia,” Mr Cosentino said.
“The archdiocese has a long history in helping these families and we will continue to keep our doors open in this Year of Mercy.
“These people are not provided with government assistance in the same way as permanent refugees.
“I would encourage parishes to continue to, or begin the process, of assisting this vulnerable group.”
All offers of help from parishes, or general enquiries, should be made via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Michael Crutcher