Otago Daily Times

First refugees fin­ish man­aged iso­la­tion process

- AMY WIL­LIAMS Society · Oceania News · Immigration · Refugee Crisis · Greater Auckland · New Zealand · United Nations · United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees · Bangladesh · International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement · Immigration New Zealand

AUCK­LAND: The first batch of refugees to ar­rive in New Zealand since the bor­der closed have now com­pleted man­aged iso­la­tion.

The 16 asy­lum seekers were pri­ori­tised as emer­gency cases be­cause of a per­ceived high risk of death, jail, or ex­pul­sion from their own coun­tries.

As many as 1000 more refugees, ap­proved to come to New Zealand be­fore the pan­demic hit, are still trapped abroad, wait­ing for the coun­try’s bor­ders to open.

It is the first time in four months there have been refugees stay­ing at Man­gere Refugee Cen­tre.

‘‘Ev­ery­body’s ex­cited be­cause we know how much it means for these fam­i­lies to be in a safe place and be looked af­ter, and it’s im­por­tant for us as well,’’ refugee quota pro­gramme man­ager Qe­majl Mu­rati said yes­ter­day.

On ar­rival, asy­lum seekers stayed in a man­aged iso­la­tion fa­cil­ity for two weeks, and the refugee cen­tre for one week.

The an­nual refugee quota pro­gramme, through which 1500 peo­ple en­ter New Zealand, is still on hold.

Even so, Mr Mu­rati said it was ready to wel­come them.

‘‘We have 1500 peo­ple that we have in­ter­viewed and of those we have 1000 who have been ap­proved.

‘‘They’ve been given res­i­dency and are wait­ing but the ques­tion is can they travel?

‘‘We need to make sure that the cor­ri­dors are safe.’’

The United Na­tions Refugee Agency has re­sumed re­set­tle­ment for a lim­ited num­ber of refugees who face an im­me­di­ate lifethreat­en­ing si­t­u­a­tion, de­por­ta­tion, de­ten­tion or im­pris­on­ment.

In mid­Oc­to­ber, New Zealand agreed to re­set­tle some of those peo­ple un­der emer­gency pri­or­ity.

Aid worker Carl Adams was work­ing in the world’s largest refugee camp when the Covid­19 pan­demic took hold.

He was in Bangladesh at Cox’s Bazar camp which, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions, is home to 855,000 of­fi­cial Ro­hingya refugees.

‘‘It was a very weird eerie time be­cause, as in New Zealand, ev­ery­body was try­ing to stay at home, but it was quite re­lent­less — the virus showed no signs of abat­ing. . .

‘‘How do you stay at home when your home is a one­room bam­boo shel­ter?’’

It was good news the coun­try was ac­cept­ing asy­lum seekers, he said.

‘‘To have the fur­ther ob­sta­cle of not be­ing able to be re­set­tled be­cause of a global pan­demic, that just adds an ad­di­tional pres­sure and stress into peo­ple’s lives.

‘‘It’s a won­der­ful thing that steps can be taken to move peo­ple into a more safe and se­cure fu­ture.’’

Once refugees leave the Man­gere cen­tre, the Red Cross sup­ports them as they set­tle into life in a new coun­try.

Red Cross gen­eral man­ager of mi­gra­tion Rachel O’Con­nor said many refugees trapped over­seas were still wait­ing for news about their fu­ture.

‘‘You just feel gut­ted for the peo­ple who were so close to ar­riv­ing in New Zealand af­ter . . . an in­cred­i­bly trau­matic and dif­fi­cult time.’’

Re­sum­ing the refugee quota was ur­gent, she said.

‘‘Right now while the quota isn’t oc­cur­ring, peo­ple who were at risk are even at greater risk and so it’s even more im­por­tant now that New Zealand thinks about its in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian com­mit­ments and we’d very much like to see the quota restarted.’’

Mr Adams said New Zealand was in a good po­si­tion to help and house the world’s most needy.

It was not a case of de­cid­ing be­tween sup­port­ing New Zealand cit­i­zens or refugees.

‘‘. . .there’s an op­por­tu­nity to sup­port both and con­tinue with our in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions to sup­port refugees,’’ he said.

The Gov­ern­ment has not an­nounced when it will re­sume refugee in­takes un­der the quota scheme.

Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand said it could not con­firm which coun­tries the quota refugees would come from, as that would de­pend on in­ter­na­tional bor­der re­stric­tions and safe travel. — RNZ

❛ Ev­ery­body’s ex­cited be­cause we know how much it means for these fam­i­lies to be in a safe place and be

looked af­ter

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