Banks sting Lismore refugees

By JAMIE BROWN jamie.brown@northernstar.com.au SUDANESE refugees in Lismore are being preyed upon by banks offering personal loans with little likelihood of that money being payed back.

Sanctuary Northern Rivers founder Dr Michael Douglas, who has helped relocate up to 100 Sudanese refugees into a welcoming Lismore community, says their vulnerable situation will result in years of financial insecurity.

In a similar situation to that reported on ABC's Four Corners on Monday night, Dr Douglas said refugees with little financial knowledge were ending up in a terrible quandary and had little hope of paying back money often borrowed to buy a car.

Four Corners revealed one of Australia's biggest banks admitted giving unaffordable personal loans to Sudanese refugees, including some with no job, no English and no concept of finance.

Dr Douglas, meanwhile, says he and his associates were 'surprised' how easily refugees in Lismore could access loans, especially for cars.

"This situation is not new to us at all," he said yesterday.

Sudanese refugees came to Lismore with a 'high level of vulnerability', most having witnessed years of war trauma and many having spent years in violent and uncertain refugee camps.

"They come to a community that welcomes them, like Lismore, and they shift rapidly from feelings of fear and mistrust to a feeling of trust and that places them in a very vulnerable situation," Dr Douglas explained.

In several examples, young Sudanese men had borrowed $20,000 for a car with little understanding of the need to insure it. They have then crashed the car and returned to the bank for another loan to buy a second car and now face years of pay-back.

"They come to a bank with a high level of trust for that organisation," said Dr Douglas.



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