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Dunedin celebrates refugee resettlement anniversary

Dunedin celebrates refugee resettlement anniversary

Dunedin (Friday, 21 April 2017) – One year since the first Syrian families began settling in Dunedin as part of the refugee resettlement programme, advocates are lauding the city’s response in welcoming the new members of our community.

The first group of people arriving through the refugee quota arrived in Dunedin on 22 April 2016, following the city’s successful bid to become a refugee resettlement city in 2015. Since then a total of 205 former refugees have settled here, most of them Syrian.

The Dunedin Refugee Steering Group, comprising representatives from community groups, organisations, and government departments, has led Dunedin’s approach to welcoming and supporting the former refugees.

Steering Group Chair, Cr Aaron Hawkins, says the response from Dunedin people in welcoming the former refugees to the community has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Red Cross has been responsible for much of the logistical support around the resettlement process and they have been inundated with donated goods and people wanting to help.”

Red Cross Southern Humanitarian Services manager, Sue Price says that Dunedin has welcomed its newest residents with open arms.

“We have been overwhelmed and humbled by the generosity of locals during the last year. It's allowed people to do something positive at home to address some of the things they see happening around the world.

“Our resettlement programme is enabling people fleeing conflict to lead lives in peace and it is also providing Dunedin with diversity and people who have a lot to contribute. I have seen a lot of the families who arrived in the first intake engaging with the Kiwi community already and becoming Dunedin locals, I can't wait to see what they add to the city culturally and socially," she says.

Cr Hawkins says some former refugees have already found employment. However, the focus for many is learning English so they can work or go into further education or training.

Being a resettlement city has also created some challenges, particularly around language and ensuring services can meet the needs of former refugees.

“We are keen to see that if there are problems, they are short term ones and that we can work collectively to provide genuine and valuable support to former refugees,” he says.

“People who have a refugee journey have been through hardships New Zealanders often cannot imagine. They have lost their homes, their family members, and to some extent their country. We want Dunedin to be a place of welcome and safety.”

Cr Hawkins says the Steering Group will continue to closely consider the strategic benefits and implications of being a refugee resettlement city.

“For real and lasting community integration and connections to happen, it’s important that we have a better understanding of the cultures of our new settlers and that they have opportunities to understand how Kiwis think, feel and live alongside each other.”

As well as Red Cross and the DCC, Dunedin Refugee Steering Group includes representatives from the Ministry of Education, Southern District Health Board, Dunedin Multi Ethnic Council, English Language Partners, Housing New Zealand, Ministry of Social Development and Citizens Advice Bureau. Two people from refugee backgrounds will also be appointed as community representatives.

ENDS


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