Up to 30,000 refugees will be settled in New South Wales regional towns under a new deal signed by NSW Premier Mike Baird.
Under the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) scheme, eligible asylum seekers will be able to apply to reside in NSW — excluding Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong — for five years, on the condition that they live and work in a country area.
Earlier this year, Mr Baird urged Abbott to “do more” about Australia’s intake for refugees especially after it was dropped from 20,000 to 13,750 places in 2013-14.
“NSW stands ready … to take more than our fair share. Yes, we have strength in our finances but my strong sense is that means nothing, unless we offer help to those who are vulnerable amongst us,” said Baird.
The scheme kicks off on July 1 with plans to stimulate economic growth and development in “targeted” towns facing labour shortages such as Griffith and Wagga Wagga.
“As Australia’s economic powerhouse, NSW has an obligation to open its arms to those who are genuine refugees,” Baird said in a statement.
“This is good news for regional NSW as it will help provide labour in our regions while providing longer term security for these asylum seekers,” Baird said.
While there is no promise of permanent residency, asylum seekers will be able to apply for onshore visas granted they stay off welfare for a minimum of three-and-a-half years.
Those choosing to live in the city will give up to right to apply for an onshore visa and apply for a three-year Temporary Protection Visa instead.
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