702 ABC Sydney
By Brendan King
Assyrian Resource Centre
Photo: Carmen Lazar and a volunteer at the Assyrian Resource Centre check refugee UNHCR registration papers brought in by family members (702 ABC Sydney: Brendan King)
A western Sydney migrant resource centre has been inundated with hundreds of Syrians and Iraqis desperate to be reunited with their family members fleeing war.
The refugees — already settled in Australia — have provided their details in hopes of a reunion with loved ones who could be among the 12,000 extra refugees Australia plans to take in the next two years.
While millions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees are in camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, many more live in churches and other accommodation.
Australian-settled refugees fear those family members could miss the attention of Australian officials when they travel to camps.
Assyrian Resource Centre manager Carmen Lazar is leading the push on behalf of the refugee community, many of whom have registered to sponsor their relatives.
“What I am doing at the moment is basically assisting the government by giving them the correct details of where these refugees are currently living,” she said.
“What I am getting now is the current residential address, their contact numbers and if they have been sponsored by relatives in Australia, their immigration file numbers, so they can easily be located.”
Mrs Lazar met with former prime minister Tony Abbott following his announcement earlier in the month to resettle an extra 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Australia.
She raised concerns with the Federal Government that most of the Christian refugees coming from Syria and Iraq were not living in camps but in church grounds or church-owned properties.
“Most of the refugees are vulnerable families and it is important that they need to be looked after,” Mrs Lazar said.
She has already emailed the names of more 4,000 refugees to the office of the Minister of Immigration Peter Dutton.
Australian-settled refugee without husband in almost four years
It is not just Christians who have flocked to the Assyrian Resource Centre in the hope relatives will be processed.
Iraqi refugee Enas Neamah said she came to the centre for the chance to reunite with her husband, who she has not seen for three-and-a-half years.
“I came to this centre because they will help me bring my husband from Turkey to Australia,” she said.
Ms Neamah said her husband was forced to flee Iraq after being kidnapped and tortured. He has also not seen his six-year-old daughter since.
Assyrian community member Nadima Elias came to the centre in the hope her mother and brothers would be accepted under the government’s plan.
“I am just trying to get my family here for their safety because they are in all sorts of danger, and I am just trying to get them here as soon as possible,” she said.
“They were in real danger in Syria and they had to flee to Lebanon.
“All the bombing and all the kidnapping around them, it is not safe at all.