Groups plan to settle refugees in Warrnambool

REFUGEES will be settled in Warrnambool if two community groups are successful in finding enough families and funding. 

Geelong-based services Bethany and Diversitat are in talks to introduce a settlement scheme to bring refugee families to the south-west. 

Diversitat chief executive Michael Martinez told The Standard a program would start “hopefully this year”. 

“We would like it to happen but it’s all a matter of numbers,” Mr Martinez said. 

“If we do it, it won’t be asylum seekers. It will be people who have come through the normal refugee program.” 

The proposal comes nearly a decade after a separate scheme brought Sudanese refugees to Warrnambool in the early 2000s, but just a handful of families remain in the region. 

Diversitat had flagged a separate program to bring asylum seekers who arrived in Australia illegally by boat to Warrnambool while their residency claims were processed by the government. 

But Mr Martinez said the plans were shelved after the Coalition victory in September. 

“Everything has been put on hold because of the change in government,” he said.

“Anyone who arrives now is in detention.” 

He said Diversitat was struggling to comfort the concerns of up to 350 asylum seeker clients on bridging visas who could be denied any chance of living in Australia if Temporary Protection Visa (TPVs) legislation is passed in July. 

A bill to reintroduce the Howard-era law was blocked in the Senate last year but could be passed in the new Senate that sits in July. 

TPVs allow asylum seekers some work rights but do not offer any avenue for seeking permanent residency. 

About 60 asylum seekers living in Colac are on bridging visas. 

“It’s really grim news. It’s grim no matter what way you look at it,” Mr Martinez said. 

“With the families in Colac we don’t know what’s going to happen to them until July 1.” 

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop