May 05, 2013
MORE than 200 Australians, including 38 in WA, have signed up to rent out spare rooms to asylum seekers.
The Sunday Times last month revealed boat people would become live-in companions for retirees and “help out” on farms under a new homestay scheme supported by the Immigration Department.
It is run by the Australian Homestay Network, which finds accommodation for asylum seekers who are released into the community on bridging visas while their refugee claims are assessed.
Executive chairman David Bycroft said yesterday the “great response” from applicants proved the scheme was “definitely a goer”, with the first homestay placements to start in a fortnight.
Under the scheme, West Australians with a spare room are being urged to sign up for the Homestay Helping Hand program.
Hosts are paid $50 a week for each asylum seeker in exchange for providing board and food.
Asylum seekers, in return, “help out around the home or farm”, “pick up the shopping”, or “provide company for someone who’s lonely”.
“We’ve had hundreds of responses and now we’re going through them all to see who is suitable, but what we’ve proven without a doubt is that there is a market for this,” Mr Bycroft said.
Among them is Perth’s Caralyn Lagrange who has signed up to take an asylum seeker to help out at her 1.2ha, semi-rural property in Bedfordale.
Mr Bycroft said he had also had a flood of negative comments from Australians who would “rather sink the boats”.
“The positive applications have outweighed the negative, but the negative can be very cruel,” he said.
“They are ignorant Australians who would rather sink the boats. They’re at that level.”
“Our experience is that these asylum seekers are very, very genuine and hard-working and want to start a new life and do well. The good news is that many Australians have put up their hand to help out.”
The scheme is separate from another homestay program called the Community Placement Network, which started in May last year, but has stalled with just over 30 placements so far this year.
Mr Bycroft said thousands of asylum seekers would soon be living in the community because the boats showed no sign of slowing, and putting up asylum seekers as boarders was a far better alternative to “conglomerated housing that comes with its own set of problems”
Coalition for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees spokeswoman Rosemary Hudson Miller welcomed the plan.