Settlement Services International has supported 1,400 Afghans to make NSW their new home since August 2021
Refugee support agency Settlement Services International (SSI) assisted the first 1,400 Afghans evacuated from Kabul, arriving in NSW on Friday, August 27, 2021. Over the eight months since arrival, Afghans have been building new lives in Australia with the help of SSI and numerous community and government partners.
Arriving during the peak of the global pandemic meant the Afghans’ arrival met many challenges, including enduring COVID quarantine, isolation measures and getting vaccinations.
Since last August, SSI has worked with partners across NSW to provide services, including supporting 1393 people with essential registration services and identity confirmation, over 740 incidences of food packages and providing over 370 families with mobile phones.
A comprehensive orientation program including 10 topics essential to understanding the Australian way of life and systems, covering healthcare, housing assistance, cost of living, transport, law and education, was completed by over 900 adults.
Other initiatives SSI has coordinated for the newly arrived Afghans include:
• 300+ families supported with on-arrival accommodation
• 230 families now settled in long-term accommodation
• 300+ children now enrolled in school
• 1,320 clients receiving a health referral with 4,500 incidences of support related to health
• 590 now enrolled in Adult Migration English Programs (AMEP)
SSI observed the conclusion of Refugee Week (June 19-25) with a special event for Afghan community members at Belmore on June 30. During the week SSI celebrated the contribution of people from refugee, asylum seeker and migrant backgrounds and helped foster the ongoing social, economic, political and cultural contributions refugees make to Australia.
Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure said NSW provides a safe haven for refugees, and a chance at a new life for themselves and their families.
“Refugees add to the rich diversity we have here in NSW through their culture and their lived experiences as well,” Mr Coure said.
“We want refugees that come to our state to have every opportunity to live their best life and that is why we invest in programs and organisations to help us achieve exactly that.
“The NSW Government is proud to partner with organisations such as SSI, which help provide avenues to settle into NSW, and become active members of their new community.
“It is through these collaborative relationships we can continue to build a stronger and more vibrant community for everyone.”
Violet Roumeliotis, CEO, Settlement Services International, said the challenges that the Afghans faced after the swift and violent fall of Kabul were unprecedented.
“The journey of the newly arrived Afghans has been heartbreaking. Many arrived with only the clothes on their back and without personal identification. This required SSI to act swiftly, employing 17 additional bilingual workers to provide the best individual support needed.
“SSI has worked with many partners across the community who have generously donated goods and opened their homes and hearts. Community organisations including established Afghan community organisations have rallied around the newly arrived.
“The settlement journey is complex. It’s ongoing, heavily involved and requires the whole community to play a role. It has been an absolute pleasure to be a central part of helping the Afghans make Australia their home and feel a sense of belonging,” said Ms Roumeliotis.
The Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP), funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs* and delivered by Settlement Services International, has provided 29-year-old refugee and former assistant manager of an Afghan Premier League team, Khorsand Yousofzai, wrap-around support services since he arrived.
Mr Yousofzai said that he’d been satisfied with the support and services so far in Australia.
“Thanks for SSI, making everything fast. They did everything fast.”
“Services in Australia are very good, very humanitarian.”
SSI has worked with a number of organisations, including TAFE NSW, Fairfield Women’s Health Service, Multicultural Health Services, University of Western Sydney, Centrelink, Medicare and many more, all offering different services and workshops to give the newly arrived the skills and knowledge to be independent.
The support from everyday Australians was overwhelming with people offering whatever support they could.
The pandemic posed new challenges that SSI had to overcome, but the motivation to warmly welcome and support the newly arrived kept settlement services seamless.
Since November 2017, SSI has helped over 14,000 refugees from 32 countries to settle in NSW.