The Shire of Plantagenet is set to become WA’s fourth regional Refugee Welcome Zone in a bid to help unite the local Hazara community with their loved ones trying to flee Afghanistan.
Plantagenet councillors on Tuesday voted unanimously in support of an officer’s recommendation to sign the official declaration through the Refugee Council of Australia, the nation’s peak body for refugees, and the organisations that support their settlement.
The declaration demonstrates “a commitment in spirit to welcoming refugees in our municipality, upholding the human rights of refugees, demonstrating compassion for refugees and enhancing cultural and religious diversity in our community”.
There are no statutory or financial commitments from the declaration.
The declaration was prompted by a formal request from the Mt Barker Hazara community, who make up approximately 4.5 per cent of the shire’s population.
In a letter to the council, Mt Barker Hazara Community WA spokesperson Ali Jafari said becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone would support all refugees who have decided to call Mt Barker home.
“Following the atrocities currently happening in Afghanistan, we’re anticipating the possibility of Afghan evacuees from Afghanistan to re-settle in our community in the near future,” he said.
“Becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone would support the settlement and the integration of these and other refugees who will eventually start life in our region.
It will also assist local Mt Barker refugees who are trying to bring their families to Australia through humanitarian pathways.”
An officer’s report stated the declaration would continue the Shire’s “proud tradition of supporting the settlement of refugees”.
“Becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone would support the possible settlement and integration of more Afghan evacuees that have been displaced and persecuted as a result of recent political instability in Afghanistan,” the report said.
“This declaration will assist in supporting these displaced Afghan refugees and other refugees while supporting the local Hazara community in reuniting with family members currently in Afghanistan who are seeking humanitarian visas.”
Plantagenet will follow the shires of Katanning, Augusta-Margaret River and Manjimup as WA’s only regional local governments to join the declaration.