The Refugee Welcome Zone initiative began in June 2002 as part of Refugee Week celebrations. Refugee Welcome Zone is a Local Government Area which has made a commitment in spirit to welcoming refugees into the community, upholding the human rights of refugees, demonstrating compassion for refugees and enhancing cult ural and religious diversity in the community.
In May 2021 Council reaffirmed commitment to welcoming and supporting refugees and those who are seeking asylum. This includes commitment to progress advocacy campaign of the Local Government Mayoral Taskforce Supporting People Seeking Asylum, continue to provide people seeking asylum free access to off-peak aquatic and leisure facilities, advocate for new social and affordable housing supply and included asylum seekers in Council’s inclusive employment initiatives.
Council acknowledged the allocation of $3.9 million provided by the State Government to support the health care needs of people seeking asylum and Medevac refugees on bridging visas. Council noted that this amount does not meet the level of need for housing and living costs for the thousands of asylum seekers who are unable to secure employment to support themselves.
Council acknowledged the post budget announcement of a four-month continuation of funding to support Extreme Hardship payments, noting that it is unclear how much of this funding will be available to directly support asylum seekers and refugees on Bridging Visas who have no Centrelink support – many of these people are at risk of losing housing as they are unable to support themselves in employment due to health issues and the difficulties of getting secure work when on short term visas.
Council also signed onto the Refugee Week 2021. The statement acknowledges that over the past eight years, successive Australian governments have enacted harmful policies against people seeking asylum, including the indefinite detention of many who arrived by boat after 19 July 2013. The statement calls Moreland, Banyule, Hume, Darebin, Whittlesea, and Yarra Councils to declare support for refugees in Victoria who without appropriate supports and call on the Australian government to:
- Free all women, men and children from any form of detention, and quickly resettle them into our community, so they can be safe and have secure housing in which to rebuild their lives;
- Provide a clear pathway to a permanent resettlement solution that includes appropriate funding and supports for anyone who arrived by sea after 2013;
- Give the 1,010 people who have no durable solution, and the 425 who have a possible durable solution a home that supports their ability to apply for employment, access education and contribute to society.