Senators Cory Bernardi and Jacqui Lambie recently questioned Australia’s decision to accept 12,000 Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks.
Two newly-arrived Syrian refugees have provided the perfect counter argument by demonstrating the positive contributions refugees make to Australia.
Johnny and Carol Bilouna were living in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, when violence erupted in 2012.
Their two children – Wendy and Joseph – were no longer able to go to school. The family would sleep on the floor to protect themselves against indiscriminate bullets that sometimes pierced through their walls.
When the conflict intensified, the Bilounas had no choice but to flee Syria to neighbouring Lebanon. Two years later, they received news that they will be resettled in Australia.
Ms Bilouna told The Optimist living in war-torn Syria was a terrifying experience, but she is glad her family can start a new life in Australia.
“I was happy because I wanted to go somewhere to give my children a better life,” Ms Bilouna said.
“This is why we applied for Australia.”
The Bilounas were eager to give back to the country that welcomed them. Less than a month after arriving in Australia, they joined the State Emergency Service (SES) in Illawarra.
They have so far helped fix three roofs damaged by wild storms and underwent training in land searches, floods and bushfires.
“It’s a way of saying thank you,” Ms Bilouna said.
“It’s a good way to be involved with Australian people, to be part of Australia – we’re doing something.”
A recent study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that refugees are the country’s most entrepreneurial migrants.
Instead of taking away Australian jobs, refugees are creating new ones and contributing to the Australian economy.
But refugees bring more than just economic benefits. Many have to endure horrific atrocities on their journey to find a new home. They develop great resilience, knowledge and empathy that they can share with their new community.
The Bilounas understand what it means to lose a home. By volunteering with the SES, they can help Australians whose homes have been damaged by natural disasters.
You can read more stories of refugees who have contributed to Australia at the Roads to Refuge website.
The Refugee Council has also compiled stories of former refugees who have come to Australia from different parts of the world.
These stories serve to highlight the important role refugees play in enriching the cultural and social fabric of this country.
Image by Adam McLean via The Optimist’s Twitter page.