Refugees – Community support to be tested

“It is now for us as a community to welcome those who will settle in New Zealand, and do what we can to support them as they build a new life and find peace after the trauma they’ve experienced,” says the President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops conference.

Bishop Patrick Dunn was commenting on the announcement that the Government will increase New Zealand’s annual refugee quota to 1,000 from 750.

“This increase will mean that for an additional 250 people every year they will be granted acceptance to make a new home in New Zealand, this will be life changing for them and their families.” Dunn said said.

“The extent of the global refugee crisis is staggering and the number of people that we can help is never going to solve the issue.”

“An end to conflict and persecution and meaningful and lasting peace are the only things that can resolve this crisis,” he said.

The Government has also announced that it will launch a community sponsorship pilot programme next year.

The sponsor ship initiative will allow further refugees, over and above the quota.

The Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said this had been done in the past.

In the 1970s Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees who had certain job skills and who could speak English came to New Zealand.

“And of course they were sponsored by churches, Rotary clubs, Lions clubs around the country. I think they settled very well,” Woodhouse said.

“In addition to our quota obligations, I think it’s worth testing whether that community support we saw last year is enduring and that’s what this pilot will look at.”

Father Gerard Aynsley, who works with refugees in Dunedin said the pilot programme would be a positive step, but he wanted to see more details.

“I certainly like the idea of community support and community sponsorship, I’d probably like to see it in terms of a public-private partnership.

“My understanding of the Canadian system is that groups and organisations sponsor families and they are responsible entirely for their integration and their coming into the country, so it requires a large amount of money.

“You would still want some government support and I would hope that was part of the pilot.”

The government will announce the full details of the community sponsorship pilot programme next year.



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