Celebrations for World Refugee Day, held on 20 June each year, kicked off on Thursday with an event at Parliament House. 

The lunch was hosted by the Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse, and New Zealand Red Cross. 

The event featured speeches from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) regional representative, Thomas Albrecht, plus former refugees Christian Damba and Yibeth Morales.

The lunch celebrated the contribution former refugees have made to New Zealand through their communities, work, and culture.

“Here at Red Cross we see people who arrive as refugees diversifying and contributing to our society on a daily basis,” said Niamh Lawless, Secretary General of New Zealand Red Cross.

“We feel privileged to be part of the welcoming committee for former refugees and we’re pleased that communities have joined us in providing a friendly welcome to their new neighbours.”

Yibeth and Christian with New Zealand Red Cross president Jenny McMahon and New Zealand Red Cross Secretary General Niamh Lawless. 

World Refugee Day comes just a week after UNHCR released the 2018 Global Resettlement needs.

Of the more than 21 million people who are registered as refugees, UNHCR says that 1.2 million of them urgently need resettlement. Less than 8% of them will be resettled in 2018.

“We’re facing an unprecedented global humanitarian crisis with millions of people worldwide forced from their homes due to conflict and persecution,” said Ms Lawless.

“We know Kiwis are keen to do what they can to help, people approach us every day wanting to volunteer, donate, and learn more about what they can do down here at the bottom of the world.

“Now more than ever, New Zealand’s contribution to refugee resettlement is vitally important. It’s wonderful that our quota is set to increase to 1,000 for the first time since the 1980s, however, our refugee intake needs to reflect the global humanitarian need.”

World Refugee Day is an international United Nations observance dedicated to raising awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world.

How to help

You can support refugee resettlement in New Zealand through volunteering, donating, or employing someone from a refugee background.

You can also support the work of New Zealand Red Cross here and overseas by buying a copy of “Taste of Cultures” – a compilation of recipes and stories from former refugees now living in Aotearoa. The book is a New Zealand Red Cross fundraiser and copies are available for purchase on our online shop and at your local service centre for $25.