CANBERRA, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- The Australian government has said 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 unnecessary overpopulation and were putting a strain on vital services.
Last week, the Fairfield City Council in Sydney's west expressed concerns that more than 6,000 Syrian migrants had settled within its limits over the last few months, meaning is now lacks the funds and resources to successfully integrate the refugees into Australian society.
Local mayor Frank Carbone urged the government to act to alleviate the burden placed on his council, but on Tuesday, the federal Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs Zed Seselja said while the government tries to settle refugees in regional areas, they are "free to move".
"When the government sponsors these individuals, we do favor 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 told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio on Tuesday.
"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 to his region, the figures being thrown around in the media "simply aren't correct", adding that the council is getting assistance from the federal government.
"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, Fairfield 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."