Refugee settlement resuming

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by Claire Allison

A third refugee family is expected to arrive in Timaru in mid to late April, as the New Zealand Refugee Quota Programme resumes.

Presbyterian Support South Canterbury (PSSC) refugee settlement manager Fiona Jackson said she was excited to be welcoming the Palestinian family to Timaru.

“Refugee Settlement Services volunteers and staff members have been preparing for this for months. We are all looking forward to welcoming more families.”

The first two Syrian families to be settled in Timaru under the Refugee Quota Programme arrived in June last year.

PSSC Family Works manager Liz Nolan said that since arriving in Timaru, the refugee families had embraced the opportunities available to them.

Adults had attended English classes, and children had attended primary and high schools and had joined sports teams, volunteered and worked at various community events.

“It was such a delight to have one of the teenage boys participate in the community foodbank drive, Toot for Tucker, last December.

“It was a fantastic chance for him to give back to the community that has been so welcoming to him and his family,” Ms Nolan said.

Mrs Jackson said there had been a lot of positive engagement from the community when the first families arrived.

Timaru was a new refugee settlement location announced by Immigration New Zealand in 2019, along with five other locations around New Zealand.

Additional settlement locations were named to support the increase in the number of places available under the Refugee Quota Programme. New Zealand’s annual refugee quota increased from 1000 to 1500 places from July last year.

However, Immigration New Zealand has already stated the quota will not be met in 2020-21 due to the global impact of Covid-19.

The programme has mostly been on hold since March 2020 because of Covid-19.

Presbyterian Support South Canterbury chief executive officer Carolyn Cooper said PSSC was pleased to be able to offer the service.

“We saw the opportunity to provide refugee settlement services in Timaru as a natural extension of the strengths that we already had in our existing services.”

Presbyterian Support South Canterbury, in partnership with Red Cross New Zealand, is presenting two workshops in Timaru on Wednesday next (March 3) about New Zealand refugee settlement:

  • Introduction to the refugee journey, 10am-noon.
  • Working cross-culturally in refugee settlement, 1pm-3pm.

These workshops are open to all members of the Timaru community and any services/agencies that work with former refugees (or will in the future).