Syria was once part of the Ottoman Empire, hence the Syrian population was recorded as ‘Turks’ through most of the 1800s. The first presence ofSyrians in Australia was documents in 1891 when 142 were recorded. The population remained relatively small whilst steadily growing throughout the 20th century. It increased more significantly in the 1970s and 1980s during a period of regional military conflict and insurgency against the government. Yet prior to 2011, Syrian migration to Australia was mostly minimal and consisting of family visa grants.
This is changing with the outbreak of Syrian civil war as millions of Syrian citizens were forced to flee their country. The Australian government has increased its humanitarian intake to allow settlement for a further 12,000 Syrian refugees. These 12,000 places are in addition to the existing Humanitarian Program of 13,750 in 2015-16 and 13,750 in 2016-17. All visas have now been issued to Syrian refugees. The candidates for these places were drawn from UNCHR refugee camps, and urban communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. The Department of Immigration and Protection has indicated priority was given to those assessed to be most vulnerable – women, children and families with the least prospect of ever returning safely. This also includes Christians, Yazidis and Druze. Most of these refugees have already arrived, and the majority have settled in New South Wales and Victoria (usually the surrounding areas of Sydney and Melbourne).
It is likely that some newly immigrated Syrians have been exposed to a range of traumatic experiences. Some may have personally been subjected to physical violence. Meanwhile, almost all are experiencing immense loss and grief, whether for deceased family members or for emotional, relational or material losses. The destruction the country and decimation of people's previous hometowns is a particularly painful truth for Syrians to process.