News National Tas push for refugee haven

Tas push for refugee haven

Jackson Vernon, ABC
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The Tasmanian Labor leader is driving a new push to provide a safe haven at the Pontville Detention Centre for Syrians fleeing the war.

The empty detention centre is on prime Defence Force land north of Hobart and defence authorities are hoping to sell it before Christmas.

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Opposition Leader Bryan Green has called a meeting of community leaders from Glenorchy, Brighton and the Derwent Valley for next Tuesday at Parliament to discuss the possibility of housing Syrian refugees at Pontville in response to the humanitarian crisis in Europe.

Mr Green said Prime Minister Tony Abbott was not showing any leadership.

“Effectively he says just stop the boats, in other words stay where you are, these people have been displaced as a result of war and evil and they need help,” he said.

FILE - In this Aug. 13, 2015 file photo, a man carries a girl in his arm as they arrive with other migrants just after dawn on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey to the island of Kos in southeastern Greece. Greece has become the main gateway to Europe for tens of thousands of refugees and economic migrants, mainly Syrians fleeing war, as fighting in Libya has made the alternative route from north Africa to Italy increasingly dangerous. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
Migrants on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey to the island of Kos in southeastern Greece.

Tasmania’s played a significant role in that in the past and I think there’s an opportunity for us to do the same again.”

In May 1999, about 200 Albanian refugees from Kosovo arrived in Tasmania, where they spent the winter housed in wooden army barracks at the 500-hectare Pontville site.

Mr Green said he was proud of the compassion shown to the Kosovars at that time.”Remember, there were soccer teams established, people were assimilated, they were billeted out into the community, it was fantastic,” he said.

The Opposition Leader said the initial feedback from people he had spoken to about an intake of Syrian refugees in Tasmania had been positive.

“We’ve got facilities, it would cost obviously, but once those people are welcomed here I’m sure that they’ll be an important part of our society, just as others have been in the past.

“And I think most Tasmanians would accept that now is the time to do something about it.”

The Pontville Detention Centre has been vacant since September 2013 after its last intake of asylum seekers, 400 Afghan, Sri Lankan and Iraqi men, were moved on.

The Defence Department is planning to put the property on the market but is yet to call for expressions of interest.

Brighton Mayor Tony Foster has been a vocal supporter of bringing asylum seekers back to Pontville.