Refugees who fled Sri Lanka look at moving to the Hastings

HOPEFUL VISIT: A group of refugees visited the Hastings this week to see about potential job opportunities. Photo: Laura Telford.
HOPEFUL VISIT: A group of refugees visited the Hastings this week to see about potential job opportunities. Photo: Laura Telford.

The Mid North Coast Refugee Support Group has played host to 14 refugees from the Tamil refugee community who are considering making the Hastings home.

In Port Macquarie on July 9, the group spent the day visiting TAFE, Port Macquarie SkillsLink and Charles Sturt University to discover potential educational possibilities. They were also able to send time at the koala hospital and at the beach.

Janet Jones from the Mid North Coast Refugee Support Group said that a number of members are seriously considering a move to the Hastings.

“The group of refugees are currently based in Sydney but have come for a visit to the Hastings this week as part of the See Visit program,” Ms Jones said.

“The refugees are all from Sri Lanka and have fled severe persecution and trauma to end up in Australia. 

“And even after they have been granted legitimate refugee status they have to adhere to a strict criteria of being self-sufficient in order to stay.”

The group, which includes families and a number of adults, have been in town exploring all of the wonders the Port Macquarie-Hastings region has to offer.

“The visas they have mean they are expected to work or study and support themselves, but part of the criteria is living in regional places like Wagga Wagga, Bathurst and Port Macquarie, after being settled in Sydney,” she said.

“Today’s visit is a chance for them to have a look at a regional area they may wish to call home, and so we have visited some tourist places, as well as places where they may be able to get employment.”

Support worker, Reverend Dr John Jegasothy said the group, despite being refugees, have a long battle to become permanent residents, let alone citizens.

“Fleeing the trauma and war in Sri Lanka is only the beginning for these refugees.  Once they arrive in Australia, they have to keep proving they are legitimate, which can be draining,” Rev Jegasothy said.

“It can be a 15-year process to become a citizen, and that is only after reapplying for visas a number of times.

“Multicultural NSW have been extremely helpful getting opportunities for the refugees so they can move to our regional hubs.”

Refugee and potential newcomer to Port Macquarie, N.BA. Nikshan Sharma, said after all the trauma that the refugees have faced, Port Macquarie looks like a delightful place to settle down.

“All of the refugees who have to leave Sri Lanka have been through great traumas and it can be really hard to keep going but by being surrounded by caring people and great support it does make it easier,” Mr Sharma said.

“All of the group have been struggling to live in Sydney so we are looking at moving to a regional hub like Port Macquarie.

“We have been shown around today and everyone we have met and spoken to have been absolutely wonderful.”

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