Despite a call for more migrants and refugees to be resettled beyond Australia's big cities, new figures show finding work can be tough. Refugees from a special 2015 humanitarian intake of refugees from Syria and Iraq who moved to regional parts of Queensland have run into problems getting a job. Only one in five are employed, and some have abandoned their initial plans and moved to a large city.
For the last 18 months, Dalya Banani, an Iraqi refugee, has lived with her family in the Queensland city of Toowoomba, 125 kms west of the state capital, Brisbane. She was resettled in Australia under a 2015 plan to give emergency sanctuary to 12,000 people affected by conflict in Iraq and Syria.
She said was attracted to a regional center because of safety and work opportunities, but she is now moving to Sydney because jobs in Toowoomba have been hard to find.
"We love Toowoomba, actually, but we need job[s]. My husband cannot find [a] job because of his English, and he in Iraq worked in oil company for 19 years. If he want to start in same area he needs maybe five years to learn English and work in oil companies here. He is now 45 and, you know, we have not any money."
Statistics from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) show high rates of unemployment among refugees in regional parts of Queensland, including the cities of Logan and Toowoomba. About 3,500 Syrian and Iraqi refugees have been resettled in regional centers in Queensland.
"Of the people we interviewed only about 20 percent had found jobs, and that was less in Logan and Toowoomba than it was in Brisbane. The key issue here, though, is that most are still doing English language classes," said Jock Collins, a professor of Social Economics at UTS.
Language problems are only part of the story for many of the refugees from Syria and Iraq. Many need medical attention before they can even think about looking for work, while some suffer the lingering consequences of torture and trauma. The Australian government and charities offer a range of resettlement services, including language class tuition and employment advice.
The number of refugees accepted by Australia each year varies. In 2016, Australia granted protection visas to more than 24,000 refugees. In 2015, the figure was 17,500.
Center-left politicians in Australia believe the annual refugee quota should be increased to 50,000 people.