City of Sydney Council tonight stepped up Australia’s response to the global refugee situation by unanimously passing a motion in support of expanding and improving the Australian Government’s current refugee community sponsorship program.
“This is a fantastic show of support for welcoming refugees and Amnesty International is so grateful to have City of Sydney Council getting behind expanding this neighbourhood-led solution to the global refugee crisis,” said Shankar Kasynathan, Refugee Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia.
Community sponsorship is a model where ordinary members of the community are able to sponsor visas for refugees, who wish to begin the process of rebuilding their lives in safety in Australia.
The motion, proposed by Liberal councillor Craig Chung, calls on the Federal Government to step up and ensure that the intake of refugees under community sponsorship is above and beyond any existing humanitarian or visa quotas, and to lower the program’s prohibitive visa fees.
City of Sydney Council is one of almost 150 local councils across the country that have already declared themselves Refugee Welcome Zones.
“Every day communities around Australia welcome new neighbours into their neighbourhoods. Sometimes those new neighbours are refugees and the role councils play in welcoming them so that they can rebuild their lives in safety is crucial, so it’s fantastic to see City of Sydney Council step up with the passing of this motion,” said Shankar Kasynathan.
The community sponsorship model has worked successfully in Canada for almost 40 years, welcoming over 280,000 refugees through the program, in addition to its humanitarian intake.
In contrast, in Australia, the community sponsorship program is capped at only 1,000 places this year and for every privately sponsored refugee, the government takes a space away from the annual humanitarian intake of 18,750.
“We can see from Canada’s example that the kindness of neighbours can help people who have lost everything to start again. An expanded and improved community sponsorship program in Australia would allow more people seeking safety to rebuild their lives, and set up a home here where they can prosper and thrive as new arrivals,” said Shankar Kasynathan.
“We hope that other councils around the country will take their lead from Sydney and take their commitment one step further by adding their voices to the call for a greater community sponsorship program.”