Church urges Government to do more for refugees

Fadia, who escaped fighting in Aleppo, Syria, stands with three of her children in front of her family's shelter in the Aamer al Sanad refugee settlement in Kab Elias, a town in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley which has filled with Syrian refugees. Two of her ten children were killed in Syria's civil war. Credit: CWS/ACT/P Jeffrey

The Presbyterian Church is calling for an urgent review of the country’s quota for accepting refugees for resettlement.

“Only 750 refugees are allowed into New Zealand each year under our existing quota. We can do more, and we should,” says the Church’s Moderator, the Rt Rev Andrew Norton.

In Syria alone, the United Nations Human Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that there are 3.8 million refugees, and a further 7.6 million people who have been displaced.

“The need is great,” says Andrew. “And sadly, Syria is only one of many countries where children and families have been displaced by war.”

According to UNHCR, at the end of 2014, a total of 59.5 million people had been forced from their homes due to war (an increase of 3.8 million on the previous year) and around half of these displaced people are children.

“New Zealand has a proud reputation of responding to calls for international humanitarian aid, and we have a tradition of providing a safe place of hospitality and welcome,” says Andrew.

“We can not close our eyes to the great humanitarian need in countries like Syria. Children have lost parents, families have lost homes, all have lost dignity. The effects of displacement are deeply unsettling and profoundly sad.

“We strongly urge the Government to take action now to increase the number of refugees we accept for resettlement.

“In this global humanitarian crisis where so many millions of people have been forced from their homes, a response that increases the quota of refugees accepted into New Zealand is part of what it means to be a good global citizen.

“As a Church we are called to advocate for those in need, and we believe allocating more of the country’s resources to supporting refugees is the right choice. It will make a massive difference in the lives of children and families who are offered resettlement here in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

/ends

Notes to the reporter:

  • For more information, or to arrange an interview with Moderator, the Rt Rev Andrew Norton, contact Jose Reader, Associate Communications Manager, 027 535 3020.
  • United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report into persons displaced by war http://www.unhcr.org/558193896.html
  • The Presbyterian Church is the third largest denomination in Aotearoa New Zealand, with more than 300,000 people identifying as Presbyterian in the 20013 Census, and 30,000 regular church attenders.
  • Presbyterian churches around the country are involved in programmes to help settle new migrants and refugees – offering places for fellowship, English as second language classes and practical support like food and accommodation. Examples of local churches involved in this work are available on request.

 

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