The Human Rights Commission says New Zealand can help its own citizens and also provide refuge to people escaping violence and war.
“We can help our own people and we can also save some of the world’s most vulnerable people. It doesn’t have to be one or the other,” said Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan.
“This isn’t just about politics: this is about humanity. It isn’t just about doing the right thing: it’s about doing the humane thing.”
With refugee and displaced people numbers at a post-WW2 high, Dame Susan said the world needed to face reality and address our growing, global humanitarian tragedy.
“We have failed. On our first World Refugee Day in 2001 there were around 12 million refugees: there are now 73 million people, most of them children, escaping violence and persecution,” said Dame Susan.
“One in every 122 people on the planet have fled their homes because of war, violence and persecution. Millions of everyday people, most of them children, fleeing their homes and everything they know and love for the chance of life, dignity and safety.”
“Everyday New Zealanders are the only ones who can truly welcome refugees to our country. A Government can increase our quota but it can’t make people feel welcome: only people can do that. If ever you’ve looked at what’s going on overseas and wondered how you can help: this is how you can help.”
“According to this week’s Global Peace Index, New Zealand is one of the most peaceful places on the planet. Fourth in the world to be exact. Nor surprisingly Syria, – with more than half its own people refugees or displaced – came last in the Global peace Index,” said Dame Susan.
“Most of us will never know what it’s like to flee our home, never knowing if we will see our loved ones again or if our kids will live to see another day. Most of us will never know what it’s like to survive a war in our own homeland, or put our lives on hold as we wait for another country to give us a new home.”
Dame Susan says we should live up to our reputation as one of the most peaceful nations.
“We have more than 73 million displaced people in the world right now – most of them children,” said Dame Susan.
“We need to share the peace. Welcoming Refugees and raising the refugee quota is quite simply: Humanity in action.”