You have a friend: Council welcomes Amnesty program for refugees

Yassir Sultani fled war-torn Afghanistan just over four years ago. Picture: Tallis Miles

By TALLIS MILES 

Supporters are pushing for greater help for refugees after Monash City Council last month became the latest council to join an expanded community sponsorship campaign.

Monash City Mayor Paul Klisaris said the council backed Amnesty Australia’s advocacy campaign  My New Neighbour, which started in March.

“We call on the Federal Government to expand and improve community sponsorship of refugees,” he said.

Yassir Sultani, 20, who fled Afghanistan nearly four years ago, welcomed the support and said issues around language and integration required greater government focus.

“I think a lot of people do not feel welcome and I know many from refugee backgrounds who have not been able to integrate into the community.

“I came to Australia with very little knowledge about English and I found it really hard to communicate,” he said. 

“There should be more integration because I think it’s a bit condescending to have people from around the world and to expect them to integrate and adopt to your way of life.”

Despite the challenges, Mr Sultani said he had been the happiest since he moved to Melbourne and he loved being here.

Amnesty International’s launch of the My New Neighbour Program.

Amnesty Australia national refugee campaigner Shankar Kasynathan said the Community Support Program was important as it gave new refugees a friend as soon as they arrived.

“The current program gives refugees someone to teach them important skills and the ability to comfortably integrate into the community,” he said.

Mr Kasynathan said local governments played an important role in resettling refugees, and supporting the My New Neighbour campaign was a great start.

“Local governments can listen to what the community wants and can also help by providing incentives or grants to businesses or service organisations that want to sponsor a refugee,” he said.

“Local governments can allow communities to communicate want they want and what they want to be and that’s why we think it is really important for other local governments to sign up to the campaign and demand change.  

“Therefore, it’s important we get as many local governments to sign up as people so they can call to action and create change for refugees in our community.”