The new Aussie battlers vying for a spot in the housing market

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Four years ago, as war raged in Khaled Ali’s home country of Syria, there was a constant threat of being kidnapped or killed at any time by Islamic State militants.

“They call your family and say, ‘We need money, otherwise we’re going to kill your son or your brother,'” said Mr Ali, a member of the Ezidi religious minority sometimes called Yazidi.

“That’s happened with some of my friends from my area.”

Some of Mr Ali’s family remain in the Middle East. He was able to escape to Toowoomba in southern Queensland.

He lives with two sisters, a brother, and now has a wife and child, and, like many others, they’re starting again from nothing.

“Most of the people who have come to Australia had their own house, their own land, everything for themselves,” Mr Ali said.

‘They don’t trust the banks’

Behind Brisbane, Toowoomba is Queensland’s largest refugee settlement location. More than one in 10 living in the city were born overseas.

The most recent cohort of refugees is from Iraq and Syria, including hundreds of Ezidi families.

“They have very low knowledge in banking regulations and policies, how mortgages work, how insurance works,” Waleed Sammouh said, another Syrian refugee who came to Toowoomba in 2017.

Mr Sammough and Basel Deghlawe, both Syrian refugees, are now employed full-time by the Heritage Bank in Toowoomba and are helping other refugees navigate the financial system.

“Back in the Middle East they don’t trust the banks,” Mr Sammouh said.

“For example, now most people have saved money under the mattress or at a friend’s house.”

When Mr Deghlawe left Syria with his wife and newborn child, all he had was a suitcase.

“We have been in their shoes before,” he said.

“Before I got my first home, I was struggling to find a home to buy, even to find a home loan [or] to understand what a home loan is.”

Beware of financial implications

Experienced service providers say newly arrived refugees are vulnerable.

Kate Venables is the chief executive of Catholic Care in Toowoomba, a leading refugee service provider.

She said in the past some families had signed up for home loans without knowing all the implications and recalled one case where a Sudanese family took on a loan and later found themselves struggling to pay it back.

“The whole family … including the kids who are working in Woolies, are actually having to pitch in to pay back the housing loan and that puts enormous stress on families,” Ms Venables said.

As Australian property prices continue rising to record highs, some refugee families in Toowoomba are pooling resources to help get into the property market.

“A couple of families are living together and they are purchasing a house so that they can have something that is so special and important to them,” Ms Venables said.

Sacrifice, hard work and safety

Before the Syrian war, Mr Ali was studying pathology, but that’s on hold for now.

To support his family here and his mother in Iraq, he now works multiple jobs, including as a barber.

For now, uniting his family is more important than buying a house.

“I will be happier when my family, the other part, come to Australia, but we just need to be patient,” Mr Ali said.

Mr Deghlawe used to be an accountant.

He too is working hard to rebuild his life and career after the war — he’s even recently managed to buy a house in Toowoomba.

“I feel it’s part of my settlement, my safety,” he said.

“I feel when I get my home, I’m safe.”

(Original ABC Article)