Immigration New Zealand confirmed they have capacity to take more refugees fleeing the Syrian crisis.
At a select comittee hearing on Thursday, the agency’s Settlement, Protection and Attraction general manager Steve McGill said new facilities being built in South Auckland would extend capacity for government to accept refugees.
“In the middle of next year, we’ll be opening the new Mangere refugee resettlement centre,” he said. “That gives us some additional capacity.”
The current blocks allow for 196 people, with standard practice to have up to 125 people in the centre at one time, he said.
“So there’s spare some spare capacity there currently.”
The refugee centre’s $21-million rebuild will include additional accomodation, especially if any unexpected refugees arrived by boat, which gives future capacity, but he did not specify how much more. New entrants stay in the centre for a six-week orientation programme before being moved to housing in either Auckland, Waikato, Manawatu, Wellington and Nelson.
McGill confirmed the Immigration agency could absorb 1,500 refugees if they were allocated the right resources – a quota intake Amnesty International have put to the government this year with little success.
“With the right investment over time government agencies could [absorb more].”
Australia’s taking 10,000. Our figure of 750 plus a temporary 250 looks pretty small alongside our neighbour even on a per capita basis,” he said.
“We look at the 700,000 to 800,000 Europe’s taking, and we also look at the fact that there’s 20 million refugees in the world. Each one counts, but it’s (New Zealand’s quota) really small.”
However, McGill said the community capacity was the “bigger question”.
“To a level money buys you capacity, but equally when you get into the community services that are needed, and the community support, and the volunteers, and the church groups … it would take a community some time to build capacity.”
The services under the most stress during the influx would be housing, but also interpreting services and sometimes medical counsel for post-trauma or mental health, McGill said.
Communities have voiced their want to help the plight of those fleeing Syria, to which Immigration NZ suggests volunteering or donating.
The immigration agency works with the United Nations Refugee Agency to determine who will be selected in the intakes.
The agency said it looks at those who qualify for legal protection, women at risk (without traditional family support) and the disabled or those who require quick medical assistance. A preference can also be given to those who have family living here already because they’re likely to settle in faster.
Refugees are given residency when they reach New Zealand, and they should follow the standard criteria when applying for citizenship after five years.
Source : Stuff NZ