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Nazeh had opened his home to civilians needing medical attention after a clash between opposing sides. From his home he treated hundreds of injured people, offering bandages and other medical supplies.
A few months later, word got out about Nazeh’s makeshift hospital, and he was accused of supporting one side of the conflict. Realising their lives were in danger, the family made the difficult decision to flee.
They packed up all the belongings they could carry and left their family, friends, home and businesses behind.
They fled amid fighting and were shot at as they boarded a bus to Lebanon. Though the family was frightened, Nazeh explains they had little time to consider the danger they were in.
“You cannot stop and think, there is no time to think. You have to move.”
After spending two and a half years in Thailand, where Mirvat worked as an Arabic teacher, the family was accepted to New Zealand under the refugee quota.
Sitting in their Wellington living room, drinking homemade cardamom coffee, a Syrian specialty, Mirvat tells us of her relief.
Having done her research online, she knew they would find safety here.“If they have 40 million sheep, we are safe,” she explains.
The family are settling well in to their new home, and all three kids are enjoying and excelling at school. Ahmed, the eldest, has dreams of one day becoming a scientist while Maria, their middle child, wants to be a ballerina.
The youngest, Jinan, hopes to become an engineer. Walking around Wellington, she has been shocked to find there are no escalators to help them up the very large hills. Because of this, Jinan’s nickname is ‘little engineer’.
Their family, Nazeh explains, are the lucky ones. Millions of people remain stuck in Syria, faced daily with conflict and food shortages. Millions more people face difficulties living as refugees in surrounding countries.
The world is facing a displacement crisis and, more than ever, refugees need our help. The current quota – 750 people a year – hasn’t increased since 1987. We believe New Zealand can do more.
We want to welcome and support more new Kiwis like Nazeh, Mirvat and their children. It’s great the government has announced an additional 600 places for Syrian refugees over the next two and a half years, but we know we can – and should – do more. New Zealand’s refugee quota needs to increase.
There are many ways that you can get involved in supporting refugee resettlement in New Zealand. The most important way you can help in your community is by simply reaching out. You can make a world of difference to a new Kiwi simply by starting a conversation over the fence or sharing a meal.