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In 2015, New Zealand committed to resettling 500 Syrians over two years on top of the annual quota of 750. Those two one-off intakes have now been completed. And in 2016, following public calls during the Syrian refugee crisis, the National government lifted the quota to 1000 – the first increase in 30 years. This new quota will come into effect on July 1.
The Labour-green confidence and supply agreement also includes the promise to ‘‘review, and adequately fund and support, the family reunification scheme for refugees’’. Currently, only immediate family members of refugees are accepted under the reunification programme, and this has to be funded by refugee families. Meanwhile, Budget 2018 included money to expand the stretched Mangere Resettlement Centre, as well as resources to deal with cost pressures relating to an increase in asylum and protection claims, and housing support for quota refugees.
This came in the form of $6.2 million of new operating funding over the next four years, plus $7.7m of new capital, to build and operate two new accommodation blocks at the centre.
Lees-galloway says there are still some people staying longer than they should in the resettlement centre, due to housing pressures. But he expects pressures to be alleviated, with Christchurch coming back online as a resettlement city, for the first time in eight years, and the addition of Invercargill. that it’s only luck that means that we ourselves aren’t needing this kind of protection. The people that are fleeing, it could be you and I.’’
Ardern, as well as campaigning on doubling the refugee quota, has also spoken out strongly against Australia’s detention of refugees and asylum-seekers on Manus
Island, in Papua New Guinea, and on Nauru.
She has reaffirmed New Zealand’s position on a number of occasions, and offered to take up to 150 of the refugees. When met with backlash from Australian politicians and media, she said it was more important to do what was right than what was popular.
De Ronde says she is relieved to hear Ardern speak out so strongly on the world stage on the plight of the refugees in Manus and Nauru.
‘‘I do think words really matter . . . Actions do matter too, and we’ll wait to see what happens with the quota increase. We’re looking to them to make good on that promise.’’ social, economic and cultural benefits, for both the community and the resettled refugees.
The groups will provide services such as the provision of furnished housing; helping refugees navigate their community and the services they need (such as enrolling in GPS and schooling); English language classes; and support towards paid employment and self-sufficiency.
New Zealand’s pilot, modelled on a programme used in Canada for 30 years, has been specifically named in the draft of a global refugee strategy being created by the United Nations.
De Ronde wants to see the programme become part of the landscape. ‘‘Globally we are being watched to see how our pilot goes . . . Internationally this is quite a pertinent issue at the moment.’’
It is a chance for New Zealand to be proud of things such as its community sponsorship programme, and its strong stance on humanitarian issues.
The pilot will be reviewed by December, when a decision will be made about whether to roll it out further.
National immigration spokesman Michael Woodhouse says there is a ‘‘generosity of spirit’’ in Kiwi communities, which the Government should utilise.
During the Syrian crisis, there were some ‘‘quite naive but quintessentially Kiwi’’ offers of help, he says.
Both he and De Ronde say New Zealand should rely on the community taking more responsibility for refugee resettlement.
While it seems increasing the quota is the right thing to do as a good international citizen, there are other considerations, including housing, resettlement services and Government funding. It costs the Government about $100,000 per refugee each year for the first three years.
Meanwhile, there is a lack of affordable housing in some resettlement towns, including Auckland, with almost 8000