The Green Party applauds the Anglican Church’s leadership on refugee issues while the National Government continues to drag its feet.
Today the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia made public their submission to the Government regarding the refugee quota programme and numbers. They called for the Government to increase quota numbers and reiterated their stance on helping with refugee resettlement.
“The Anglican Church have stepped up to provide leadership on the refugee quota while the National Government has been waiting for its polls to tell them what to do,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.
“It is fantastic to see the community welcome refugees and provide the resources to enable New Zealand to take more refugees.
“The Government has always used the excuse of having a good resettlement programme as being the reason why they cannot increase the quota.
“The funding needed to expand the refugee resettlement programme would be very small in comparison to something like a flag referendum and would be even smaller if the offers from community groups were taken up.
“Last year, the Green Party tried to introduce a Bill to increase the refugee quota permanently but we were blocked by the National Party, the only party to oppose it. National has had an opportunity to act time and time again but have chosen not to do so.
“I don’t know a single person or organisation that opposes a more generous refugee quota, other than the National Party.
“The Government could have changed the lives of so many desperate people if it had only had the courage to increase the quota before now,” said Mrs Turei.
Amnesty International is holding its own public hearings on the three-yearly review of New Zealand’s refugee quota at Parliament today in a bid to ramp up pressure on the Government to raise the threshold this year.
Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, the Human Rights Commission, New Zealand Red Cross, former refugees and others will make submissions to a panel set up by the human rights advocacy group.
Kiwis On Board are the latest voice in the local refugee campaign calling for the government to at least Double our Refugee Quota.
The Human Rights Commissioner Susan Devoy hosted a meeting this week of ‘refugee allies’ from Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin. The group called for NZ to Double its Quota in this year’s up coming review. This call is being endorsed by various church groups, Amnesty International and Save Our Children.
Kiwis On Board was the result of a trip to the Greek Island of Kos, by filmmakers Arani Cuthbert and Felicity Morgan-Rhind. Shocked by the desperation of refugees fleeing conflict and arriving on the island, they returned home determined to do something. A few weeks later, over dinner with kiwi journalist Kim Vinnell who herself had just returned from conflict zone reporting, the three hatched a plan. They would create videos showing the positive impact refugees have had on New Zealand for decades, in a bid to engage kiwis in the conflicts happening right now
“Our aim is to raise awareness. Raise the refugee quota. And ultimately raise New Zealand’s profile as a country which really cares,” says Morgan-Rhind.
“These are desperate times” says Cuthbert, “We believe most New Zealanders support us taking in more refugees and it’s time our government took action. Not only by raising our quota but also by creating alternative entry options. Refugees are an investment in the future of our country – most refugees contribute far more than they take and make NZ a richer place to live”.
A new grouping of social agencies is adding its voice to calls for refugees to be sent to Dunedin.
But the Dunedin Refugee Steering Group hopes the move will go one step further, by encouraging the Government to lift New Zealand’s overall refugee quota as well.
The message was delivered to the Dunedin City Council on behalf of the steering group yesterday by South Dunedin Catholic priest Fr Gerard Aynsley.
The group represented agencies including the Dunedin Refugee Support Group and the Dunedin Multi Ethnic Council and had support from churches, the Dunedin Council of Social Services and Otago Polytechnic, among others.
Fr Aynsley, speaking during the public forum at yesterday’s community and environment committee meeting, told councillors the group wanted Dunedin to be considered as a centre for refugee resettlement.
The group’s call had also been made directly to Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, a Dunedin-based National Party list MP, last month.
Immigration NZ is yet to decide where the extra refugees will be sent after Mangere, but Mayor Dave Cull has also called for Dunedin to be their destination.
Fr Aynsley told yesterday’s meeting Dunedin would also be ”a goodoption” to host a second centre, like Mangere’s, if the Government wanted to replicate what was offered there.
There would be challenges if refugees were sent to Dunedin, including finding employment, he said.
Some refugees could also face health issues after spending years in refugee camps. But the city stood to be enriched by refugees’ contributions, he believed.
”I think it’s too easy to see the refugee crisis as a problem … I think when we welcome people we are enriched by that.”
The Human Rights Commission says New Zealand can help its own citizens and also provide refuge to people escaping violence and war.
“We can help our own people and we can also save some of the world’s most vulnerable people. It doesn’t have to be one or the other,” said Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan.
“Everyday New Zealanders are the only ones who can truly welcome refugees to our country. A Government can increase our quota but it can’t make people feel welcome: only people can do that. If ever you’ve looked at what’s going on overseas and wondered how you can help: this is how you can help.”
“We need to share the peace. Welcoming Refugees and raising the refugee quota is quite simply: Humanity in action.”
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says the Government may lift the refugee quota next year after calls for New Zealand to do more for people fleeing their homes around the world.
“The Government agreed to the current three-year refugee quota programme in June 2013 and a decision will be made on the next three-year programme early next year after considering all relevant factors,” Mr Woodhouse said.
New Zealand is one of about 26 countries which resettles refugees referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Last year, Burma was the largest source country for quota refugees, followed by Colombia and Sri Lanka.
“Some of our critics forget an additional 300 people are approved residence each year under the refugee family support category and a number of asylum seekers’ claims are also approved each year.”
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