As the arrival gates are slammed shut in the United States, a Dunedin city councillor is calling for the city, and the rest of New Zealand, to open its arms to more refugees.
Cr Aaron Hawkins, a Green Party city councillor, yesterday called for a doubling of New Zealand’s present refugee quota, to 1500 per year. Contacted by the Otago Daily Times, he said Dunedin — like other resettlement centres — could accommodate more of those in need. (more…)
New Zealand Red Cross is encouraged by the Prime Minister’s response to the suspension of the United States refugee programme and would like to see a practical response from New Zealand through an emergency refugee intake.
“We agree that it is the kiwi way to welcome refugees and believe that New Zealand has been a world leader in this regard,” says Anne Smith, acting Secretary General of New Zealand Red Cross.
In the current global climate support for refugees, and upholding obligations to protect them, has never been more important.
Long conflicts around the world have exacted a terrible price on civilians, among them high numbers of women and children and Red Cross is concerned that the current refugee quota in New Zealand does not match the global humanitarian need.
“The majority of refugees are women and children, an emergency intake could assist some of these families who are most vulnerable,” says Mrs Smith.
As the primary provider of refugee resettlement support in Aotearoa, Red Cross is confident that New Zealand has the capacity to do more to meet the ongoing humanitarian need.
“The continual offers of support we have from kiwis demonstrates that people care about what’s happening on the global stage and want to help.”
New Zealand has a world class refugee resettlement programme which means we are in a position to respond to urgent humanitarian need. An emergency intake now is both possible and urgently required.
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.”
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