Lismore to take on 50 Syrian refugees

THE head of the region's largest refugee resettlement group believes Lismore is "perfectly placed" to take on about 50 asylum seekers fleeing the Syrian conflict.

Sanctuary Northern Rivers president Michael Douglas said he was yet to hear word about Grafton's role in the program to resettle at least 4000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees in NSW.

"What we've said to Canberra is that we think Lismore can support five to 10 family groups here - so about 50 refugees or somewhere in that vicinity," he said.

"Lismore has a rich history of being a successful place for resettlement.

"Grafton hasn't got that record, nor have I been approached by anyone from Grafton saying they want to be involved.

"That's not to say it's not happening - or won't - I just haven't had any contact."

The NSW Government has begun preparations ahead of the arrival of the first asylum seekers before the end of the year.

NSW Coordinator-General for Refugee Resettlement Professor Peter Shergold was appointed to the role last month.

"This will be a staged process over approximately 18 months and NSW will settle at least 4000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees," he said.

"The humanitarian crisis occurring in the Middle East is unpredictable and Australia and NSW are working within that context.

"These people need our help, and my role is to coordinate a holistic approach with government agencies, community groups and the private sector all pitching in to offer the best services we can for these refugees."

The state will accept up to 7000 new refugees, adding to the 4000 who are already settled each year.

Dr Douglas was confident the Northern Rivers could accommodate and benefit from the influx of new citizens.

"The foremost issue is the availability of rental housing. The second is employment," he said.

"In my experience, those who come are very eager to educate themselves and go on to skilled positions.

"By and large they do very well.

"Is that bumping other people out of a job? There has been no evidence of that."

Lismore has a history of taking on African refugees through the more traditional route of off-shore processing.

Member for Page Kevin Hogan would not estimate how many asylum seekers would come to the region but supported the plan.

"I certainly believe the North Coast can accommodate a certain number of refugees," he said.

"There are certain restraints given infrastructure and employment opportunities in the region.

"That being said, a growing population does create, in itself, employment opportunities."

-APN NEWSDESK



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