by ROWENA OREJANA
The New Zealand Catholic Church has welcomed the government’s move to increase the intake of refugees, as Europe experiences its worst immigration crisis since World War II.
Cardinal John Dew, the president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, said in a statement that Ne Zealand can no longer ignore the crisis.
“The escalating numbers of refugees globally constitutes a crisis that no nation committed to human rights can ignore. We urge the Government to think deeply about how New Zealand might provide a response which reflects the generosity of New Zealanders,” he said.
Earlier, Cardinal Dew and Archbishop Philip Richardson of the Anglican Church said they believed both Churches can take in about one family for each of their 650 parishes.
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand said the civil war in Syria left 12.2 million people needing help. Eight million people have been forced from their homes and more than four million are either living in neighbouring countries or seeking a better life in Europe.
“We have worked to help Syrian refugees since the beginning of the conflict, and Caritas is committed to continuing to provide essential supplies to those in need,” said Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand director Julianne Hickey.
Caritas has been supporting 1.2 million Syrian refugees living in neighbouring Lebanon since the outbreak of the conflict.
Caritas’s work in Lebanon is part of a regional response to the crisis that includes supplying food, water and shelter to desperate refugee families in Iraq, Turkey and Jordan.
The Catholic bishops earlier asked the government to consider three options:
• The Refugee Quota Programme include provision for 150 of the total 750 to be “transferees” from Australian detention centres. Given that there are people within our own region, on the island of Nauru with proven refugee status, the 150 places could be treated as outside the quota, which would mean that 150 places could be given to people from other parts of the world.
• Increase the number of people who enter New Zealand under the family reunification category, so helping refugees already settled here and their relatives, especially those in camps in places like Lebanon and Turkey.
• An extraordinary allocation of places outside the quota to deal with the extraordinary situation in the Middle East.
Caritas is accepting donations to the Peace in the Middle East Fund to help with the humanitarian response. To donate: www.caritas. org.nz