Wellington ready to welcome Syrian refugees

7:35 pm on 22 February 2016

Religious groups have teamed up to provide a warm welcome to the first 90 Syrian refugees who will settle in Wellington in the next fortnight.

Anglican Bishop of Wellington Justin Duckworth wants the refugee quota doubled.

Anglican Bishop of Wellington Justin Duckworth wants the refugee quota doubled. Photo: RNZ/Michael Cropp

Anglican and Catholic churches, along with the New Zealand Islamic Centre, are kitting out 25 homes this week with pantry staples, kitchenware, bedding, and other essential items.

Wellington vicar Jennie Sim was busy checking off the pots and pans, blankets, ironing board, and pantry items for house number 12.

"We're going through each individual household of the 25," Rev Sim said.

"[We are] checking off the goods, quality checking the goods, making sure they have what they need for the number of people that will be in that house."

House 12 will soon be the home for a family of five -a mum, dad, two boys and a girl who have fled civil war in Syria.

"People are really really happy to welcome and embrace these new families and give them a foot up for a new start," Rev Sim said.

"It's a great cause, a great way of expressing God's love and just saying welcome."

Mike Keenan was testing second-hand electrical goods.

"We're just making sure that the donated goods that aren't brand new are electrically tested," Mr Keenan said.

"We try them out to make sure they work and really the key is for three-pin plug stuff you're testing for earthing to make sure people don't get electrocuted."

In September last year, Wellington's Anglican and Catholic Bishops asked the Red Cross how they could help the refugees coming to New Zealand.

They were asked to kit out the homes, and people have been giving from right across the region: House number 3's goods have come from the Wairarapa; while the Whanganui community has provided for the house next door.

And although toasters are important, for those who had given they said it was about being a good neighbour and making sure the refugees would feel welcome.

The Anglican Bishop of Wellington Justin Duckworth said that generosity extended well beyond the church.

He said he had heard stories of people going into shops looking for items like rice cookers and the shops selling the items at cost when hearing about who they were for.

"It's not just the churches and the Islamic centre - it's actually everyday New Zealanders and small businesses saying we want to get behind and say refugees, you are welcome."

Bishop Duckworth said that showed the country's capacity and willingness to increase the annual refugee quota.

"The question is not the inconvenience it is for us," he said.

"The question is what will happen if we don't do this. What will happen to the refugees who don't get to come here.

"For us, to double the quota is just saying we would like to see... 1500 [refugees] a year because for those extra 750 that'll make a huge difference."

This month's refugee intake is the first of several, and Bishop Duckworth said they were already preparing for the next one in April.

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