Politicians fought among themselves about the best ways to deal with them or to ‘stop the boats’.
At the grassroots level in Fremantle, this is an issue that has been very much at the forefront of the UnitingCare West’s Homeless Accommodation Support Services in South Fremantle.
UnitingCare team leader Alec Uzunovsky said in recent years the service in South Fremantle had come across a growing number of refugees who needed support.
‘This service has a number of strong networks with a range of humanitarian refugee providers and multi-cultural agencies and as a result has seen an increase in the number of humanitarian refugees who have been granted permanent residency visas referred for accommodation and support over the past year,’ he said.
‘The service is seen as being able to assist refugee clients with securing accommodation but also assisting them with other presenting issues such as torture, trauma and persecution issues from their countries of origin.’
Mr Uzunovsky said over the past 12 months the service had attracted people from Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan, Burundi and the Republic of Congo who had been granted permanent residency, but more needed to be done to help them settle.
‘For a number of single refugee clients presenting to the service on being granted permanent residency visas, the ability to access the private rental market is very limited due to exorbitant rents, no tenancy history within Australia and a tight rental market,’ he said.
‘The level of support required for clients to enter the employment market and earn sufficient monies to access the rental market is not being provided to an adequate level and without access to the employment market, they have little or no prospect of being able to afford rent and find themselves homeless.’