Refugees who have resettled in New Zealand should be acknowledged as some of the bravest, kindest and most resilient people amongst us, Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy says.
Today is World Refugee Day, which honours refugees’ strength and courage, and encourages awareness of and support for those who have had to leave their home countries because of persecution, conflict and disasters.
“We acknowledge their journey to get here, something that most of us will never be able to fully comprehend. And we also acknowledge the challenges that come with starting a new life in a new country,” Dame Susan says. “If we truly believe in giving people a fair go, we should extend this to everyone. Human rights begin at home – and this is home when refugees arrive here.”
“I have met some of those who call New Zealand home now and consider it a privilege.”
Dame Susan said refugees had been contributing to New Zealand for the past 70 years. “The Government has its first refugee MP, and my former colleague at the Commission was New Zealand’s first Khurdish woman lawyer – now about to leave for Harvard as a Fulbright scholar.
Refugees have the same aspirations we all do, she said. “A roof over our heads, food on our tables, a safe place to raise children, education and employment – all the things that are basic human rights.
“I know there are Kiwis without some of these rights – if we are to honour our humanitarian obligations we can and should care for both.”