Wednesday 2 September 2015

Raise the Refugee Quota: expanding our empathy, one spare room at a time

We've got a spare room next year -so we can also join in ‪#‎raiseThequota‬ NZ

I Have in My Arms Both Eays- By Adrienne Jansen -a book full of empathy about cross cultural  world views 

This is an important read about a terrible situation facing refugees 

This (European) summer I was shocked when working in Europe, by the issues facing refugees

struggling to get there- I was merely working there for a short time, but I was aware others were risking their lives to have a safe place to live.

But what shocked me first was a throw away comment in an article in The Times in May that

described tourists in Greek resort islands as being "bemused" by the sight of immigrants struggling ashore. There was no evidence in the article that any tourist was actually "bemused", not even a comment, just an editorial assertion.

I was not bemused as a tourist in Europe, I was just shocked by the struggles facing so many at Calais for example and by the way the UK media often reported this struggle as if it was not connected to the politics of England, just some kind of security aberration. 

Then I came home and discovered my own NZ government had not raised the NZ quota for  30 years -in fact it has gone down from 800 in 1987 to 750. 

I talked to some former NZ Ministers of Immigration - they each offered reasons for this, we were dealing with an immigration scam at the time that meant we could not address this issue, or we took more work migrants from the pacific, or, we had to prioritize family reunification...But the truth is We, as citizens of NZ let this happen and enabled our politicians to look the other way. We just ignored our global responsibility in the same way we ignore our global climate responsibility- by arguing we are too small, or too poor to make a real difference or that somehow by expanding our empathy we will diminish our lives.

Well we may be small in number as a nation but we can be big in heart and mind
This New Zealand Rhodes Scholar and researcher swam the distance from Turkey to Greece to make this case for refugees. I find Dr Nina Hall inspiring

Some of the most promising students I have ever worked with at have arrived as refugees. See for example Abbas Nazari

I hope she won't mind me also bringing her into this, but my own mum worked with refugees for her whole life and it enriched our childhood and world view growing up in Riccarton Christchurch, we were surrounded by other languages and news of the world, we never felt isolated or far away, we felt globally connected.

This week 10,000 ordinary Icelanders offered their homes to refugees its inspiring. There is a New Zealand #raisethequota facebook campaign- next year we will have children away at university and we too can make room 

- let's make a difference, enlarge our compassion and our world views and enrich our nation

Our spare room's not flash and the curtains are not sorted out, but we could also make room for a couple or parent and child  let's #raisethequota NZ

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