Charity to reunite refugee families

A new Christchurch charity hopes to raise funds to help reunite refugee families.

The ReUnite Trust, launched this week, aims to help bring refugee families together by paying for the travel costs of those who had been granted residence by Immigration New Zealand but did not have the means to pay.

ReUnite secretary Kate Taylor said it could take years to get through the immigration process.

"Then you're faced with a $12,000 or so bill to fly them here. A lot of these people are already sending any spare cash over because these are countries with no welfare system, no jobs."

New Zealand took 750 refugees each year but it was difficult for those people to settle into the country when they had to leave other family members behind, she said.

The trust helped reunite Ethiopian-born Belaynesh, 56, with her extended family.

She arrived in New Zealand as a refugee from Sudan about 14 years ago with her young children, leaving her extended family behind in Ethiopia.

In 2003, she received a letter from her father, pleading for her to visit him before he died. She barely remembered her home country and was devastated to find her parents, sister and uncle had died.

The farming family had lost their land over the years to famine and drought and had no money to pay for medical care.

She spent the next eight years trying to bring the surviving members of her family to New Zealand and was finally reunited with her family in Christchurch last December.

The Press