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Refugee Council welcomes government announcement

Up to 100 Syrian refugees in need of "urgent protection" from the continuing civil war will resettle in New Zealand as early as this year, the Government has announced.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said today that the Government has offered to resettle up to 100 Syrians after the United Nations called upon the international community to help with the worsening humanitarian crisis.

Refugee Council of New Zealand spokesperson Gary E. Poole said “Our Government has responded to the request from the United Nations and the Council praises this humanitarian gesture.” Germany had already responded generously last year. By New Zealand and the UK also now stepping forward, this is going to start to make a difference, as it encourages other nations to do their part.”

“The Syrian civil war is the world humanitarian crisis of this generation and not unlike the Killing Fields of Cambodia during the Southeast Asian crisis of the 1980’s.” “New Zealand is making a significant contribution, not in numbers, but in accepting the urgent high protection cases, mostly women and children who are in need of immediate care,” Poole said.

“RCNZ and the agencies which deal with helping refugees will be ready and able to support the Government in this initiative and get the best outcomes for the new arrivals to assist them to heal and recover.” “All they want is a place of safety and land of peace – for these 100 desperate women and children to be able to come to get help in New Zealand is like the gift of a new life.”

There are a few Syrian refugees in New Zealand, most of them had arrived as asylum seekers and were victims of torture. “Many people know that New Zealand does accept an annual humanitarian quota from the UNHCR of 750 urgent protection high needs cases from the UNHCR, but so far they are from other countries (Afghanistan, Burma Iraq, Congo, Sri Lanka) but up until now not directly from Syria.” “Many Syrians are reluctant to speak to media because they don’t want to be identified or have their families placed in greater risk back at home,” he said.

The United Nations has confirmed that over 1 million people have now fled Syria as refugees since the civil war began 2 years ago. Over 70% of the refugees are vulnerable women and children who were forced to flee for their lives and are now surviving inside UNHCR tent cities in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. The alleged poison gas attack in Ghouta last week has brought worldwide condemnation

“At the recent UNHCR consultations in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner Antonio Guterres expressed deep concerns that his agency was struggling to even feed the thousands of desperate refugees pouring out of Syria at the present time.” The High Commissioner expressed deep frustration that developed wealthy countries which had done some of the heavy lifting in the past were not coming forward in this worsening crisis.

“Our recent visit to some of the camps in Lebanon has confirmed that the situation is grave. Neighbouring countries are being destabilised by the widening civil war in Syria. The humanitarian crisis is the worst we have seen since Cambodia or Rwanda. The asylum seekers from Syria have often survived torture by the Assad regime and undergo treatment and rehabilitation,” he said. “The international community must act urgently to bring about a cease-fire and get the parties into negotiations.”

The Refugee Council of New Zealand applauds this gesture of the Government to accept some of the high protection cases of women and children from Syria in upcoming humanitarian quota resettlement intakes.


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