More refugees call Tasmania home

Literacy support worker Chris Howard helps Bhutanese refugee Devi Magra with a practice citizenship test.
Literacy support worker Chris Howard helps Bhutanese refugee Devi Magra with a practice citizenship test.

TASMANIA'S refugee intake nearly doubled over the past 12 months, and the Northern Migrant Resource Centre says our economy could reap the benefits.

NMRC chief executive John Brown said 873 humanitarian refugees had been resettled in Tasmania so far in 2013-14 - 400 more than the previous year.

Northern Tasmania welcomed 373 people, up from 203 in 2012-13.

Australia increased its humanitarian refugee intake in August 2012 from 13,000 to 20,000.

Mr Brown said the most prominent ethnic groups to arrive in the North of the state were Burmese, Bhutanese and Afghani, all being families who had been through processing centres.

He said he believed Tasmania was capable of increasing its refugee intake, and praised the effect new arrivals had on the economy.

"People say there are not enough jobs in Tasmania for [the refugees], but they create jobs too, in the money they spend and services they need," Mr Brown said.

"They need houses to live in - which stimulates the rental market, and, while they do face employment challenges, they desperately want to work and learn."

Mr Brown said language barriers, separation from family and culture, inadequate education and qualifications, and limited transport options were the main problems faced by new refugees to Launceston.

"But really, I have found that there has always been an underlying support for refugees in this community," he said.

"Services such as the Migrant Resource Centre and Northern Suburbs Community Centres have always relied heavily on volunteers, and every week we see examples of generosity and assistance coming through."

At Mowbray's Northern Suburbs Community Centre, literacy support worker Chris Howard helps a number of new migrants pick up the skills they need to work and learn.

"We've previously taught basic conversational skills, but we've found that demand has increased for more practical things, like study help, practice for citizenship tests, and computer literacy," Mr Howard said.

"The vast majority of the refugees just want to work and learn, and they are willing to work hard to get there."

World Refugee Week runs from today to Saturday. The 2014 theme is Restoring Hope.


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