A group of Iranian and Afghan refugees living at Havelock House in Canberra on bridging visas are desperately looking for jobs so they can remain in the community.
The 40 men, aged between 19 and 28, have until recently been held at the Curtin detention centre in Western Australia but were transferred to Canberra under the federal government's plan for more community placement of asylum seekers who do not pose risks.
A bridging visa allows an asylum seeker to live lawfully in Australia rather than in an immigration detention facility until their immigration case is resolved. They have the right to work and support themselves - but that is proving difficult.
National Training Group chief executive Chris Zorzo has organised for the men in Canberra to get some training in English to help in their quest for jobs.
Mr Zorzo said the men received six weeks' assistance through the Red Cross with their accommodation. That assistance had now lapsed or was about to lapse.
What happens now is not known, with some of the men who have arrived under the same community placement earlier in the year forced to look for work interstate.
The refugees may be able to seek more help through the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme but now, without their accommodation covered and with no job, they are facing an uncertain future.
Mr Zorzo said he had expected the men to drop out of the English classes but none had.
''They're eager and they know English is the key to getting a job, so they've got drive, that work ethic in them,'' he said. ''They want a job and they're desperate for a job because the expectation from whatever family they have back home is that they will support them.''
The men come from varied backgrounds - two have masters degrees; others are sheet metalworkers, carpenters, shopkeepers and farm workers.
The asylum seekers joined the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union which helped them to get their construction industry induction ''white card'' through Construction Charitable Works, a charitable organisation set up to improve the lives of building workers. CFMEU ACT secretary Dean Hall said that same assistance with training was offered to all unemployed members. He said the union also had a proud tradition of helping a range of groups in need.
Mr Hall said the union would be contacting construction industry players in Canberra on behalf of the men ''to give them a chance'' . It could offer businesses help with additional training of the men.
■ For more details, ring Chris Zorzo on 0410 509 098 or the CFMEU on 6267 1599.
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