Southland Red Cross calling for refugee support volunteers

Red Cross humanitarian services co-ordinator for Southland, Peter Saba, says the Invercargill office has received many ...
John Hawkins/Stuff

Red Cross humanitarian services co-ordinator for Southland, Peter Saba, says the Invercargill office has received many offers of help for the Colombian refugees who that are set to arrive in the city in March 2018.

The Southland Red Cross has been swamped with offers from people looking to help Colombian refugees coming to Invercargill.

Southland Red Cross humanitarian services co-ordinator Peter Saba said "as soon as the announcement was made [that refugees were coming], we had quite a few calls each day. People calling in asking how they can put their names down, asking how they could help out."

The organisation was now looking for expressions of interest to be refugee support volunteers.

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Red Cross was contracted to help with the resettlement, and the work it did was to pair up refugees with volunteers, who would help the families to settle within the community, Saba said.

"They help them with things like enrolling the children in schools, registering with doctors, helping them with their shopping and groceries."

Their housing would be taken care of by Immigration New Zealand.

English language partners will teach the refugees the language, Saba said.

"We don't really envisage any barriers or struggles because, from what we've seen with Dunedin, it's been a really great integration with the Syrian families in the communities there."

The first refugees were set to arrive in March next year and the city would receive about 15 more with each intake every eight weeks, Saba said.

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Initially, about 10 to 15 volunteers would be needed, but the number was likely to grow.

Depending on family size, two or three volunteers would be paired with bigger families, he said.

Currently, therefugees were still in Ecuador. 

In January, they will arrive at the settlement centre in Mangere and then six weeks later they will come to Invercargill. 

Red Cross migration programmes manager Rachel O'Connor said they were refugees because they have been forced to flee their country due to war or persecution. 

"In Colombia's case, there has been an ongoing civil war for the past 50 years which has led to many people fleeing to neighbouring Ecuador."

On Wednesday, there will be a public meeting to discuss the integration of the new Colombian refugees into the Invercargill environment.

O'Connor will be present to talk to people about how Red Cross will work with the refugees and how it would resettle them in the community.

Immigration NZ national manager of refugee and protection, Andrew Lockhart, would also be speaking at the meeting talking about the refugees who would be arriving from Colombia.

 - Stuff

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