The global head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has commended New Zealand Red Cross on its humanitarian work in Aotearoa and around the world.

Elhadj As Sy, who was in New Zealand this week as part of the Pacific consultations for the World Humanitarian Summit, spoke to Red Cross staff, members and volunteers around the country, and visited Red Cross recovery operations in Christchurch.

Mr As Sy congratulated New Zealand Red Cross on its 100th birthday and the work the organisation has carried out over its century of care.

“For the past 100 years, you have cared for your fellow New Zealanders, for people affected by crises in other countries, and for people coming to New Zealand in search of a better life.

“You have been there, in many places in the Pacific and around the world, your dedicated aid workers sharing expertise, commitment and care for communities in need, driven solely by a desire to make a difference. I have met many of your colleagues, I have seen their dedication first hand. Your Kiwi aid workers are greatly admired and appreciated throughout our Red Cross Movement.

And of course, you were there, when Christchurch was hit by its earthquakes. You have made us all so proud, and so deeply grateful for the work you have done.

Mr As Sy also spoke about the current global refugee crisis and IFRC’s campaign on migration, which calls for the protection of humanity and an end to indifference.

“New Zealand Red Cross has been working alongside refugees, helping them feel at home in this beautiful country, supporting them to find jobs, and to find their places in their new communities.

“It is our collective responsibility to offer them protection at every stage of their journey, from the country they leave to the country they will cross during their journey, to the country where they will arrive.

“Rather than focusing on the legal status of migrants, we encourage all those involved in the response to remember that we are dealing with human beings, many of whom are forced to flee conflict or insecurity, and must have unhindered access to basic human rights, in particular the right to protection and health care.

“Migrants are entitled to the same rights and protection as anyone else – the life of a migrant is not worth any less and their rights must be respected.”

IFRC is calling for change to international policy across the world to address the root causes of the migration crisis, but also for the public – individuals and communities to help shatter the stereotypes, tackle the stigmatization and protect humanity.

Mr As Sy also highlighted the role of Red Cross in the humanitarian sector by sharing a story from his visit to Red Cross’ Ebola response operations in West Africa.

“This was dangerous work, and I asked ‘Why would we take this on?’ I remember vividly one volunteer who turned to me and said, ‘but sir, if we don’t do it, who will?’

“The answer to this young volunteer’s question was simple: if we don’t do it, then no one will. No one will because no one can. No one else is there, present in all communities, able to speak the same language, understand the same cultures, express the same fears and hopes.

“We as a Red Cross Movement are unique. And when we look at all the challenges that the world faces today, we can see that no one else can make the difference we can,” Mr As Sy says.

For more information on the IFRC migration policy visit: www.ifrc.org/protecthumanity