Thirteen Syrian families arrived in Dunedin recently, the first to be resettled in the city since it was chosen as the new refugee resettlement location last year.

The families were met at the airport by Red Cross staff and volunteers, who accompanied them to their new homes.

Red Cross will provide support for up to twelve months as the families resettle in Dunedin. This includes connecting people with the community and vital services like healthcare, along with helping them find employment.

Red Cross Secretary General Tony Paine says he knows people in Dunedin, who showed an enormous support for the city becoming a resettlement centre, will be keen to welcome their new neighbours.

“We encourage everyone to reach out and be that friendly face over the fence, but give it a little time- let the families settle in and get to know their new homes. Moving is hard for anyone, even if it’s just across town. For these families, it will be an even more daunting task.”

Red Cross relies on donations of household items, like kitchenware, bedding and lawn mowers, to turn houses into homes for former refugees, who often arrive in New Zealand with few possessions.

Red Cross’ Dunedin manager Sue Price says the Dunedin community has opened its arms to support its new residents.

“People have shown incredible generosity, donating goods and their time to help. We hope this hospitality will continue as we welcome more new Kiwis to Dunedin in the coming months, this first intake is just the start.”

People accepted under the refugee quota arrive in New Zealand every two months, spending six weeks at the Department of Immigration’s Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre before moving into resettlement locations across New Zealand. The next group is expected to arrive in Dunedin in June.

Eleven new staff members have joined Red Cross’ resettlement team in Dunedin, and have spent time training in other resettlement locations around New Zealand. The team encompasses a diverse range of backgrounds, including former refugees, Arabic speakers and Dunedin locals.

How you can help

  • Become a refugee support volunteer. Red Cross volunteers are a friendly face and supportive guide for former refugees as they embark on their resettlement journey. 
  • Donate small, good-quality household items (such as kitchen appliances) to help turn houses into homes for new Kiwis. To do this, contact the Dunedin service centre. To give you an idea, the following items are currently needed: New toilet brushes, ironing boards, clothes drying racks, duvet inners, new pillows, irons, kettles, vacuum cleaners, toasters, microwaves, food processors, new car seats, disposable or cloth nappies, push chairs and net curtains.
  • The service centre has an abundance of linen, crockery, and heaters, so these items are not currently needed.
  • Donate to support refugee resettlement programmes in New Zealand and Red Cross efforts on the ground in Syria.