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Tampa boys become New Zealand citizens

Tampa boys become New Zealand citizens

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Internal Affairs Minister George Hawkins today attended a ceremony where 76 of the former Tampa refugees became New Zealand citizens.

The 76 Afghans were amongst the group of 433 people rescued from a sinking Indonesian fishing boat off the coast of Australia by the Norwegian container ship Tampa in August, 2001. A group from the Tampa was subsequently accepted as refugees by New Zealand.

Helen Clark said the Tampa refugees have demonstrated their commitment to New Zealand since their arrival here.

"Today, they can proudly proclaim themselves citizens of New Zealand," Helen Clark said.

Helen Clark praised the way that the Tampa teenagers - known affectionately by the officials and caregivers they had come into contact with as the 'Tampa Boys' - had adjusted to life in their new land.

"I have followed the progress of the Tampa Boys over the past three and a half years, and have seen and heard how they have embraced the New Zealand way of life, by settling into school, further study, and jobs, and also by forming their own very successful soccer team, and even switching codes to support the All Blacks!

"Today's ceremony is a milestone in the lives of these new young New Zealanders. They are already making a positive contribution to New Zealand life, and our lives have been enriched by having them here," Helen Clark said.

Internal Affairs Minister George Hawkins said becoming a citizen is a privilege which applicants earn by demonstrating their commitment to New Zealand.

"The Tampa boys have done that, and they have also brought a unique perspective to New Zealand through their own culture and traditions.

"Together with the Prime Minister, I am pleased today to welcome the Tampa Boys and families as new Kiwis. I know that they, along with the approximately 20,000 other new citizens we expect to welcome this year, will contribute to the richness and diversity of New Zealand," George Hawkins said.

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