ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact
After picking up his family and fleeing the violence in the Syrian city of Aleppo, Zakir al-Zahar made the painful decision to start a new life. He tried to pay human traffickers to take them to Germany through Austria, but they were turned away at the border.
England was his next goal but after Teresa May declared that the UK won’t be taking any more Syrian migrants, he turned his sights on Australia.
Zakir and his family were offered a temporary protection visa – but he and his family denied it.
The Australian government had made plans to settle the family of four in the coal-fired village of Lithgow, about an hour west of Sydney cosmopolitan Penrith district. However, Zakir said he’d rather return home to Syria and risk it.
“Anywhere but Lithgow. Even Ipswich?” said al-Zahar. “You can’t raise a family in Lithgow, it’s just not on.”
A Lithgow councillor has lashed out at the Syrian family, calling them ungrateful and elitist. He urged not just refugees, but also the wider community to stop staring down their nose at the four-horse brothel town – as it continues to be lampooned and chastised in the national press.
“I’m sick ‘n’ bloody tired of these big city white tooth people comin’ down here and givin’ us a hard time,” said Councillor Phil Carton, cousin of Betoota Mayor Keith Carton.
“We’ve got plenty of fine family entertainment. The Council just bought an old Commodore for the locals to shoot at when they’re drunk and bored.”
The al-Zahar family’s rejection of the Lithgow offer is just one of a growing number of cases that the department of human services is having to deal with.
Earlier this year, a Sudanese family decided the ongoing conflict in their country would be a better place to live compared to Werribee in Melbourne’s west. The family cited bogans and chronic drug abuse in the area as reasons why they left – with warlording and endemic massacres being more attractive.
New South Wales’ Central Coast has also been snubbed by waves of refugee families, who said that not even the world-renowned beaches of The Entrance could sway them towards a life of loitering out front of the TAB and fighting people during State Of Origin matches.