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Anglicans set up houses for Syrian arrivals to Wellington

Monday 22 February 2016

Anglican Church of Wellington kits out homes ahead of Syrian refugee arrivals to Wellington

The Anglican Church partners with volunteer groups to furnish homes for Wellington’s first arrival of refugees; Anglican Bishop of Wellington calls on the government to double NZ’s annual refugee quota

Parishioners from churches across the lower North Island have heeded a call from Justin Duckworth, Anglican Bishop of Wellington, for household items to kit out homes for the first arrival of 95 Syrian refugees settling in Wellington.

Kitchenware, bathroom appliances, soft linen and other essential household items will be brought from as far afield as Wanganui, Palmerston North and the Wairarapa by parishioners who want to welcome refugees to Wellington in the most practical way possible.

The church sent out a list of required goods to parishes two weeks ago and items are to be delivered on Sunday 21 February to the Capital. The goods will be housed at the Loaves and Fishes Hall, part of the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, ready to be set up in homes next week, ahead of the refugee arrivals later this month.

“We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to our call for assistance,” says Bishop Justin. “The people of the Anglican Church of the lower North Island want to welcome those fleeing the war in Syria with open arms and this is one practical way that we can help.

“This will be the largest ever group of refugees to Wellington and that is why we have teamed up with other organisations to make sure that we are ready to make the new arrivals feel at home when they get here.”

Preparing homes for the refugees has been a partnership between government agencies, religious and volunteer organisations. The government refugee resettlement programme has been responsible for providing 25 homes as well as furniture for each family. All other household items are being provided by the Anglican and Catholic churches who are taking responsibility for setting up 10 homes respectively. The New Zealand Islamic Centre is catering for the final five homes and the Red Cross will assign volunteers to each family so as to provide ongoing support as they settle.

In the past, the Red Cross has kitted out houses for refugees but due to the sheer scale of arrivals, religious organisations have come together to lend a hand. They will offer the same support when the next group of refugees arrive in Wellington in April. The Anglican Church is providing additional practical support such as offering up the Cathedral for the Red Cross orientation days for the refugee families in early March.

It’s time for New Zealand to double the refugee quota

Bishop Justin and the Anglican Diocese of Wellington have joined a chorus of other organisations calling for the government to double New Zealand’s annual quota of refugees from 750 to 1500 people.

“Overwhelmingly, what we see in our church and with the public of New Zealand, is a people who have a desire to help those in need who are fleeing the ravages of war and conflict. It’s the Kiwi way to lend a hand to our neighbour in need. We are calling on the government to hear the voice of the people and to double the quota.”

The government is expected to make a decision on whether to increase the annual quota in March. While the government is not consulting the public on this issue, Amnesty International has established a public online submission process, Our Voices, where New Zealanders can support a doubling of the quota. The Anglican Church has made a submission and Amnesty International will be sharing this, along with all others gathered, to the government.

In June of last year the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) calculated that approximately 60 million people had been displaced, predominately as a result of conflict. This is the greatest displacement of people from war and conflict since the Second World War and globally represents one in every 122 people. Half of these are children. Two-thirds have been in exile for five years or longer; four-fifths are living in the developing world, in nations which can least afford to house them.

New Zealand’s annual refugee quota has not been increased since 1987 and we lag – per head of population – many developed countries, include Australia, in terms of the number of refugees we welcome each year.

ENDS

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