Canberra, August 1: The Australian government has said that while it aims to settle refugees in regional locations, migrants are “free to move” once settled.

The remarks followed claims from local councils that refugees were causing overpopulation and putting a strain on vital services, Xinhua news agency reported.

Last week, the Fairfield City Council in Sydney’s west expressed concern that more than 6,000 Syrian migrants had settled within its limits over the last few months, meaning it now lacks the funds and resources to successfully integrate the refugees into Australian society.

Local Mayor Frank Carbone urged the government to alleviate the burden placed on his council.

But Federal Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs Zed Seselja on Tuesday said that while the government tries to settle refugees in regional areas, they are “free to move”.

“When the government sponsors these individuals, we do favour regional locations. Many of these people are sponsored by particular communities and will, therefore, share the costs of getting them here. Most often, they will settle where their sponsors are,” Seselja said.

“But when we accept humanitarian entrants into Australia, they have freedom of movement. We can settle them in Toowoomba, Hobart or Geelong or other regional locations, but in the end, people are free to move.

“We do all we can to provide the services in regional locations, but we can’t tell people that they can’t move to Sydney or to Melbourne.”

Seselja said that while he understands that Fairfield’s Mayor is concerned by the sudden influx of migrants, the figures being thrown around in the media “simply aren’t correct”.

“Some of the claims made by the Fairfield Mayor simply aren’t correct, though we do understand they’ve experienced a large influx. But funding follows the clients, so if more people move to Fairfield, it gets more funding,” Seselja said.

“As I said, we do our best to settle these entrants into regional areas, but the government can’t dictate terms to people who are settled in Australia,” the minister concluded.

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