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29 Apr 2020


Refugee settlement in Australia during COVID-19

Billingual Guide, Emad Ibrahim and Adam Bujairami ,a HSP team leader – Reception, picking out board games for refugee families stuck at home.

Since mid-March, SSI has supported more than 100 newly arrived refugees to settle in their new home. All our processes were modified early in the outbreak to ensure all staff and newcomers abide by strict hygiene practices and the federal government’s mandatory 14 days of isolation.

Emad Ibrahim is a Bilingual Guide with SSI’s reception team. His job involves meeting refugee families on arrival at Sydney airport and welcoming them to Australia.

“The reception team’s work cannot stop; these families need support,” he said.

“It is not like this is just a task or job. It is something you feel you must do, because these families, they need assistance. They are just like us, they could be my family or friends.”

He explained that he and his team are comfortable in their safety while greeting new arrivals due to the strict hygiene and physical distancing practices that have been implemented. Some of the precautions taken include supplying staff and new arrivals with masks, strict documentation and reporting of any flu like symptoms, no contact deliveries of food and quarantine entertainment, and strict physical distancing.

“We are doing this in the proper way. If you do your work correctly, you can protect yourself and others,” said Emad.

Emad said some new arrivals are reuniting with family or friends in Australia that they have not seen for months or years.

As overseas arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days due to COVID-19, one newly arrived refugee family had to find a creative way to keep physical distance when meeting their sponsors prior to the introduction of more rigorous restrictions on reasons for leaving the house..

“There was a fence at the house, and I told them: you stay on one side of the fence and you on the other about six meters apart. They all seemed very happy. It was very nice that we could help them meet despite the circumstances,” he said.

Moments like this are common for the reception team, who go above and beyond every day to ensure newly arrived refugees have everything they need and feel at home in Australia.

With the introduction of 14 days of isolation, the team has been making regular trips to buy puzzles and games for refugee children and families to help get them through their first two weeks at home.

Learn more about SSI’s Humanitarian settlement program here

Read the story of the refugees helping to build testing centers as part of COVID-19 response here

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