17 Nov 2015

Extra refugee settlement centre considered

6:02 pm on 17 November 2015

Immigration New Zealand is considering making Dunedin a refugee settlement centre.

A child sits under a tent with Syrian refugee women attending a class on family planning organised by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) at a makeshift camp by Taybeh village, in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley, on November 15, 2015.

A child sits under a tent with Syrian refugee women at a makeshift camp in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley. Photo: AFP

The city's council yesterday unanimously endorsed a push to add the city to the five places in the country where refugees are settled long-term.

New Zealand has agreed to take an additional 600 refugees from Syria over the next two-and-a-half years, with the first intake of 85 due to arrive in January - about a third of them children.

Another 150 Syrian refugees are being included in New Zealand's annual refugee quota.

More on the refugee crisis and New Zealand

Immigration New Zealand national refugee manager Andrew Lockhart said it had completed an assessment for an additional settlement location, looking at employment, housing, government services and local support.

Dunedin was one of the areas being considered and officials would soon be meeting with the council, Mr Lockhart said.

A decision would be made early next month.

'Moral obligation'

Councillor Aaron Hawkins said yesterday the weekend's events in Paris and Syria showed it was the right time for Dunedin to resettle refugees.

A city did not get to choose when it needed to be a good global citizen, he said.

"Events that have unfolded in Paris over the weekend and then subsequently in Syria have painted a very vivid portrait of the relative peace and prosperity we're fortunate enough to find ourselves in here," he said.

"I think we have a moral obligation as a country and a community to do what we can to help any families, or individuals for that matter, who are trying to flee that nightmare that they currently live."

Some other councillors had asked how likely it would be for Syrians to stay in the city, and if there would be jobs for them.

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull said he had no doubt Syrians would add greatly to the city's life and development.

The Dunedin Refugee Steering Group put forward the plan backed by the council.

The community group's spokesperson Father Gerard Aynsley said today the move looked likely to go ahead, and he was confident it had wide city support.

"Dunedin has put forward a very very good proposal. We've got a city council that's on board. We've got a comunity that's very open," he said.

"I would be surprised and disappointed if it didn't happen."

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