The designation of Armidale as a resettlement centre for refugees has opened the way for them to move to Glen Innes, according to local activists.
“There’s a lot of support in Glen Innes. It’s happening and it’s a demonstration that it’s possible”, said Nicci Parry-Jones who chairs the local Refugee Welcome Group which she founded in Glen Innes. She said she recognized that it was unlikely that Glen would get the first settlement of refugees from Syria and Iraq but thinks that the second settlement is now possible.
“We really have to keep Glen Innes on the map for them.” She said Glen was now on a register as a possible place for relocation once the 200 refugees to be received in Armidale had become acclimatized to Australia and might want to move on.
The families are due to arrive in the Northern Tablelands early next year as part of Australia’s humanitarian migration program. They will have come from one of the most traumatized parts of the world where killing and terror permeate everyday life.
It’s hard to know what local people feel about the arrival. It’s clear that opinion is divided but how much opposition, on the one hand, or enthusiastic welcome there is is not known.
Glen Innes opponent, James Gresham, said he would welcome Jewish or Christian refugees from the war zones but had doubts about Muslims if they embraced extreme ideology. “Moderate Muslims can be nice”, he said, “but the extremists take over”.
“If they are genuinely persecuted, I’m all for it, but with economic refugees, I have serious reservations.”
Deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, in announcing Armidale’s designation as a refugee centre, said that many of those settling had endured “unimaginable circumstances which have torn families apart”.