Living in slums

NEWCASTLE refugee families are paying up to $580 a week to live in homes that refugee support workers say are only fit for demolition.

They have also complained that many families are sent to live in houses that are in a filthy states and unsuitable for their needs.

A dossier of photos showing broken plumbing and furniture were recently sent to Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Bowen to support the claims.

‘‘I recently went to visit a family who were sitting on the most appalling, filthy, ripped lounge I have ever seen except at the tip,’’ volunteer refugee support worker Sister Diana Santleben said.

More pictures of the refugee housing

Australian College of Languages, a subsidiary of education company Navitas, is contracted to settle refugees under the government’s humanitarian settlement services program.

A residential licence agreement prepared by the college’s partner, Resolve FM, for a three-bedroom property that houses a family of nine says the ‘‘fair market weekly rent’’ for the house was $580.

Newcastle MP Sharon Grierson met with a delegation of refugee families and support workers last Friday.

‘‘From the photographs shown to me, I would only describe these [properties] as slums,’’ she said.

‘‘You wouldn’t live in them and neither would I.’’

She has asked Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Bowen to investigate the allegations.

A spokeswoman for Mr Bowen confirmed that the minister was aware of the allegations.

‘‘He is taking the allegations very seriously and has asked the department for further advice about the matter,’’ she said.

Navitas English executive general manager Helen Zimmerman said the company had always met department requirements, which were reviewed annually.

‘‘ACL takes these allegations very seriously and is fully investigating these unsubstantiated claims, and will co-operate with any requests from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship for further information,’’ she said.

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