News State Victoria News Hundreds welcome new Melbourne refugees

Hundreds welcome new Melbourne refugees

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Locals are rallying ahead of a demonstration planned by anti-immigration groups. Photo: ABC
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About 200 people have gathered at Eltham in Melbourne’s north in support of a group of Syrian refugees who will be resettled in the area in the coming weeks.

Up to 120 Syrian refugees will be given accommodation in a disused section of St Vincent’s Health, an aged care facility in Eltham, as part of the Federal Government’s one-off humanitarian intake of 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

The plan has caused controversy and a group of anti-immigration protesters led by Sydney-based group Party for Unity will demonstrate in the area this afternoon.

Local sporting clubs will be shut down, roads will be closed, and residents have been advised to avoid the area.

Police have warned protesters that they will not be tolerating anti-social behaviour.

Painted butterflies to welcome refugees to Eltham

In recent days local residents have spray-painted footpaths in the area with butterflies, a symbol to welcome the refugees to the area.

“In the 1980s in Eltham, the Eltham Copper Butterfly was an endangered species and the community rallied together successfully to save it,” Gillian Essex from the Welcome to Eltham group told AM.

“Now we’re rallying together again from outside people who are coming in to protest to try to tell us who we should be accepting in our community.

“It’s really up to us and we are really looking forward to welcoming these refugees.”

Catholic Care, the agency charged with resettling the refugees, said it was carefully managing community expectations.

“There are people in Eltham who have been unsure of what’s happening, so we’ve been working very hard to get the facts out in into the community around what is happening,” Catholic Care deputy chief executive Sheree Limbrick said.

“Once they do understand some of the facts around how the project’s going to operate, the support that’s being offered the sorts of families that will be coming into the accommodation, a lot of peoples’ fear and anxiety has diminished.”

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