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Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown has launched a petition to increase New Zealand’s refugee quota from 750 to 1500 over five years along with Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson and Carterton Mayor John Booth.
Booth told the Wairarapa Chronicle “I think what has been requested is a feasible approach and a balanced way of doing it” and pointed to the emotional impact of refugees’ struggles.
“I saw that picture of the Syrian boy that had died and I think you’d have to be a cold-hearted person if that didn’t pull at the heart strings,” he said.
Wellington Deputy Mayor Justin Lester also spoke of the benefits increased refugees number would bring to the capital.
“You’ve seen it in the past. In Wellington we host a lot of refugees, around 200 to 250 per annum, and they add and contribute to society. [Refugees] give us a cultural understanding and awareness, making our country much stronger and richer.”
It is not just politicians pushing for an increase in refugee number. Anglican Bishop of Wellington Justin Duckworth said congregations across the lower North Island have offered to house and financially support 40 families—approximately 160 people.
“As a country we have been criticised for not doing enough to respond to the refugee crisis. We want to say loudly and clearly, as the Anglican Church of New Zealand, that we are prepared to help in a practical way. If resources are the limiting factor in our government’s decision over what level to increase the quota by, we are committing to take over the wellbeing and support of 40 families,” Rev. Duckworth said.
Wellington has the largest Syrian community in New Zealand and have taken in 67 Syrian refugees since November. Most have settled in Berhampore, Newtown and the Hutt Valley.