New Zealand can easily take its refugee quota up to 1500 a year, Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway told a sympathetic audience at a World Refugee Day event in Palmerston North on June 18. Mr Lees-Galloway was a speaker at an event at the Palmerston North Convention Centre — “Stand in their shoes: Celebrating young Kiwis from refugee backgrounds”.

As well as several speakers, the event featured live performers from different ethnic refugee communities, and their testimonies.

Mr Lees-Galloway told NZ Catholic that he was frustrated by arguments made by people against doubling the quota, saying that we didn’t have the resources to take that number of people and settle them.

He believed New Zealand could easily have enough housing, health resources, classrooms and teachers to cope with 1500 refugees, Mr Lees-Galloway said.

“Everywhere I have gone I have found a deep desire in New Zealand communities to receive and support new refugees or former refugees.

“There is no doubt, some people think refugees are a burden and think that taking more would mean fewer resources for Kiwis. I would say they are not a burden . . . and there are plenty of opportunities in accepting refugees.”

One of the organisers, Jean Christophe Massimba, a former refugee from Congo-Brazzaville, said the event was wonderful. It may have been the best celebration yet in Palmerston North.

Mr Massimba, the chairman of Manawatu Refugee Voice, said he thought there were more than 300 people present, and possibly as many as 500.

Diocesan project manager Dave Mullins said the organising committee was made up of former refugees.

“[The event] was fantastic,” he said. “It was refugee communities being refugee communities with each other, and inviting the Palmerston North community to experience it.”

The event had been held for the past three or four years, he said, “but this is the first time the diocese has been formally involved”.

This followed the Anglican and Catholic bishops together last year calling for New Zealand to do more for refugees. Each year on June 20, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and civic groups in more than 100 countries around the world host World Refugee Day events to draw the public’s attention to the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide.

 

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