Ukrainian family reunification gets Caritas support

Caritas is standing behind the government’s announcement to allow the reunification of families for Ukrainians living in New Zealand.

“We welcome this announcement in that it provides a shelter from the storms of war. It’s a way out for vulnerable Ukrainians leaving a war zone and seeking to reunite with family members.

“This expanded category is probably the most effective way to provide asylum quickly to some people fleeing Ukraine who already have family settled in the community here to provide support” says Roger Ellis, Engagement Manager for Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand.

On Tuesday, the government announced a Special Ukraine Policy visa aimed at supporting 4000 family members of Ukrainian-born New Zealanders.

“We are pleased with the announcement and supportive of family reunification. It is in keeping with the biblical injunction to love our neighbours as ourselves” says Ellis.

“The government policy is aimed at the 1600 Ukrainians living here and enables them to bring family members here. They have to accommodate those family members who will get a two-year work visa and their children will be able to go to school.  It’s somewhat different to the UN refugees who are basically homeless with no relatives here and so need more help on arrival.”

Ellis says Caritas’s understanding is that the Ukrainian policy is a special humanitarian arrangement for family sponsorship which goes beyond the usual family immigration categories.

At present, Caritas Aotearoa NZ is helping its sister agency Caritas Ukraine in its work with displaced people in Ukraine, he says.

So far it has raised $78,000 to help Caritas Ukraine provide urgent food, water, shelter and other emergency supplies which are being offered to the 100,000-plus people it has assisted so far.

Ellis says it’s estimated that more than 2.5 million people have fled their homes and are crossing the border to neighbouring countries.

Pros and cons of the new Ukraine policy

One of Caritas’s reservations about the new policy is that there are many former refugee families in Aotearoa who have been waiting years for reunification with family members who have fled war, conflict and violence in other parts of the world, especially Africa and the Middle East.

He would like to see their need being met “in a timelier way”.

Ellis notes resettlement as refugees through the UN refugee quota or through Community Organisation Refugee Sponsorship would take some time (years, rather than months).

On TodayFM, Nai Jit Lam, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Deputy Regional Representative in Canberra says there is no need to temporarily relocate people here just yet.

“It really is difficult to say how this is going to go, in terms of the conflict,” he says.

“The situation is very fluid, it’s still evolving”.

He suggests that supporting European countries who are helping Ukraine could have a flow-on effect. In his view help should focus more on those accepting refugees.

“The most crucial work that we are trying to do is to keep that access open, keeping humanitarian aid and assistance – the logistics of it”.

The NZ Green Party immigration spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman sees this very differently however.

“Ukrainians here are saying something quite different to what we just heard from UNHCR which is actually there are quite a few people who do want to re-settle and, of course, go back if the situation allows,” she says.



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