Claremont mayor calls for Syrian refugees to be housed at Showground

CLAREMONT Mayor Jock Barker says his council is ready to get to work so the Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) can house Syrian refugees at the Claremont Showground.

“Australians have already stood up at appropriate times for genuine refugees, and at the end of the day they are persecuted people who need assistance,’ Mr Barker said.

He said he supported the offer made by the Royal Agricultural Society to use the Showground for short-term accommodation.

“They are going to need expertise in terms of administration, and we’ve got it,” Mr Barker said.

Assistance could include co-ordinating volunteers helping refugees and clothing, bedding and toy donations.

Council staff have already held preliminary discussions about how they could help.

The United Nations estimates a five-year civil war has displaced 6.5 million people in Syria.

This morning, Premier Colin Barnett suggested the Showground be initially used by WA’s share of the 12,000 refugees Prime Minister Tony Abbott said would be accepted by Australia yesterday.

Mr Barnett said WA had the experience to set up “a large sort of camp environment” that could temporarily house refugees before their long-term accommodation throughout WA.

RAS president Ron Wilson told the Western Suburbs Weekly the Society’s suggestion to use the Showgrouns was sent to Mr Barnett’s office the day after the Premier said last Monday that WA could take about 1000 refugees.

“I think it’s an appropriate thing to do as we are in central location, we have the accommodation and toilet facilities, the volunteers, and are close to medical facilities,” Mr Wilson said.

East Fremantle Mayor Jim O’Neill and Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt have also written to Mr Barnett asking if the refugees could be housed long-term at Leeuwin Barracks in East Fremantle, where 370 Kosovo War refugees stayed in 1999.

“No single country can solve the crisis, but as one of the world’s richest countries, Australia should do it part and East Fremantle is proud to make a stand for this,” Mr O’Neill said.