Tampa refugee Mohammad Ali Amiri wants Prime Minister John Key to take a leaf out of his predecessor Helen Clark's book and accept survivors from the boat that sank near Christmas Island last week.
Mr Amiri, who is president of the Wellington Afghan Association, said the decision by Miss Clark to accept refugees from the Norwegian container ship Tampa 11 years ago was courageous.
Speaking during World Refugee Day celebrations at Newtown Park yesterday, Mr Amiri, a tailor, said it was now Mr Key's turn. "Mr Key, please exercise some humanity and do something which will make you and this country proud once again," he said.
He described the survivors of last week's shipwreck, who are now on Christmas Island, as powerless. "They have lost loved ones who have been drowned. They are desperate." He remains in regular contact with Tampa's captain, Arne Rinnan, whom he credits with saving his life.
"Mr Key has an opportunity here to show the world New Zealand is a truly humanitarian country. He can do something for these people caught up in this tragedy now," Mr Amiri said.
In August 2001 Mr Amiri was one of 438 men, women and children crammed on to a crippled 20-metre wooden fishing boat that became stranded in international waters north of Christmas Island.
He was 23 at the time and spent three years in a refugee camp on the island of Nauru.
He was accepted as a refugee in September 2004, long after many other Tampa refugees had been accepted by New Zealand.
"I'll never forget what Helen Clark did for many of us on the Tampa," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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