Resettlement of Former Refugees
The New Zealand Government has established a new category for former refugees to resettle in New Zealand. Known as the Community Organisation Refugee Sponsorship Category (CORS), it provides a partnership between Government and Community organisations to help up to 30 refugees from the Middle East to settle in NZ. Four organisations were approved to be community sponsors in December 2017. Read more about this pilot programme here.
South West Baptist Church was one of the chosen four community sponsors. This means that we agree to provide support to three families for a two year period to help them to settle into Christchurch. It is important to note that South West Baptist Church does not determine who has the right to come to New Zealand. That is the role of the Government. Our responsibilities begin once the former refugees are in the country.
Our goal is to support the former refugees to become fully functioning members of society, in a way that is respectful of their beliefs and culture.
Our motivation for doing this arises from our desire to see strong and welcoming communities in New Zealand – places where people are healthy, whole and in a relationship with each other and with God. We believe that helping other people together builds our relationships with each other and makes communities and ultimately society more generous, more caring and more healthy.
Other former refugees that have come to New Zealand have experienced social isolation and difficulty finding sustainable long-term employment. We hope to address social isolation by placing each family in the midst of a community of people that will befriend them and help them settle here. The families arrive in Christchurch in July 2018. One family will be placed in Somerfield, another in West Spreydon and the third is going to live in Hoon Hay, and the children will attend local schools. Two of the families have three children each, and the third has four children. In total there are 10 children, ranging in age from 15 to less than a year old.
Once they are settled with children in school and they are feeling comfortable with their new surroundings, we will support them to find meaningful sustainable employment. This could start with volunteering, or part-time work to build up NZ work experience and work history. It could mean re-training. If you have knowledge of, or connections with employers that might be willing to assist us in this area, please get in touch.
In August 2018 we meet with the Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway to talk about making the pilot a permanent pathway for refugees to be settled in New Zealand. We talked about the successes to date, how a pilot could be expanded nationwide, and the extent of support from community sponsors to do this.
On November 12 2018, we presented a Proposal to the Minister on behalf of a newly formed Core Community Partnership1. The Proposal is quite simply an invitation to the Government to work with us to design a permanent programme. Read the full Proposal here.
Supporting that invitation is a list of forty-seven groups that represent one million everyday New Zealanders. Many are churches. Some are not. There are rural communities and urban communities. Groups from Whangarei to Invercargill and many points in between have come together to say that they too want to help a refugee make a new start.
In May 2018, Amnesty launched a campaign from our Lyttelton St site. The campaign goal was to collect 10,000 signatures from everyday New Zealanders to show support for community sponsorship.
On November 27 2018 Amnesty International presented the Minister with those signatures. Amnesty have drawn together the stories of settlement, including some of our stories, to demonstrate how lives are being changed, and communities are being strengthened. This report is available here. Tony Blackett, executive director of Amensty International, spoke about the programme with RNZ and wrote a piece for Stuff. Stuff have also published an article about the programme which can be read here.
We understand the Government intends to make a decision on the pilot in the new year.
For further information please get in touch.
1The Core Community Partnership is the Anglican church of New Zealand, Baptist churches of New Zealand, and Caritas Aotearoa/New Zealand.