This afternoon the Government announced that New Zealand will welcome an additional 600 Syrian refugees on an emergency basis over the coming three years (in addition to our existing annual quota of 750 people) plus an additional 150 Syrian refugees as part of our existing quota.
What does that mean?
It means that 750 Syrian men, women and children will have the chance of a safe future in New Zealand because people like you took action - signing our petition, emailing the Minister or the Prime Minister, organising spontaneous marches to Parliament, pledging to open your own home to a refugee, or signing on as donors or volunteers with Refugee Services here in New Zealand.
When we founded ActionStation, one of our reasons for doing so was that some things are too important to be left to politicians. Standing up for the compassionate core of our country is one of those things. Thank you. Your actions made a difference.
But this is not the end. The Government has not yet made a decision on increasing our annual refugee quota. This is essential not only to ensure that New Zealand continues to do our bit in response to the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II, but also to ensure that adequate resources are allocated - on an ongoing basis - to ensure refugees have the support they need to settle successfully into life in New Zealand.
So our campaign continues - because if the government is serious about addressing this issue and saving lives then it must bring the planned review of the refugee quota forward and double the refugee quota immediately. Resources should also be scaled up and service providers consulted to ensure all refugees are supported to settle well here.
So this Thursday thousands of New Zealanders will gather all over the country at candlelit vigils where we will have a moment of silence for the innocent lives lost and light candles for the additional lives that could be saved if the government acts immediately to #DoubleTheQuota
On a very personal note, thank you. This campaign means so much to me. When we started back in May, Syrian refugees were far from the minds of many New Zealanders but in recent weeks our collective impulse to open our hearts, our country and even our homes to people fleeing the terror and horror of war has built into a massive movement.
Together, we can do even more for people whose lives have been torn apart by war - whether they are still in Syria, in refugee camps in neighbouring countries or on their way to New Zealand. In the first instance, we can keep the pressure on the Government to bring it's planned review of the refugee quota forward and double the refugee quota immediately.
As Murdoch Stephens, of Doing Our Bit wrote to me today:
"The call to double our quota isn't some random figure. Before this current focus on the crisis, we've campaigned for a permanent increase of the quota to 1500 places. Doubling the quota would make up for population growth over the 28 years since the quota was set, and even if we doubled the quota by 2019, we'd still be taking half of what Australia will accept on a per capita basis. Doubling the quota is an absolute bottom line. Whatever emergency provisions we make should be on top of that."
So we'll continue to campaign to ensure New Zealand is doing our bit when the quota is reviewed next year. But first, see you on Thursday night. It's a chance to stand together to say that we are grateful for all that we have here in New Zealand, and that we welcome refugees to New Zealand.
Yours in gratitude,
PS: Many people have asked how they can do more to help refugees in New Zealand and elsewhere. Here is an incomplete list of practical things we can do to help:
- Make a donation to the Red Cross - you can choose to support their work where the conflicts are happening, in the refugee camps or here in New Zealand where they help refugees settle
- Make a donation to the UNHCR - the agency responsible for helping refugees
- If you don't have any extra cash, you can donate useful household goods to refugees resettling here in New Zealand
- Apply to be a refugee resettlement volunteer here in New Zealand
- More suggestions to come - follow us on Facebook or Twitter for updates