10 Sep 2015

Send refugee men back to fight IS - Peters

5:36 am on 10 September 2015

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has suggested New Zealand only accepts refugees who are women and children, and send the men back to fight against Islamic State (IS).

A refugee cries as he arrives at the main station in Dortmund, western Germany.

A refugee cries as he arrives at the main station in Dortmund, western Germany. Photo: AFP

The Government announced yesterday it will take in an additional 600 Syrians in the next two-and-a-half years, at a cost of nearly $49 million.

Prime Minister John Key said the emergency intake would stretch the country's refugee services.

Winston Peters giving his 2015 Budget speech.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

But Mr Peters said if immigration numbers were tightened up, New Zealand could accept more refugees.

"And if we're going to do it, let's bring the women and children and tell some of the men to go back and fight for their own country's freedom, like we are."

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said he was confident the refugee resettlement services would be able to cope with the extra intake.

He said the Mangere resettlement centre in Auckland was being rebuilt, and the new facility should be open in early 2017 and would be able to process more people.

"I'll need to check the numbers, but I think it is being built for a maximum normal capacity of 196 but in an emergency, such as a mass maritime arrival, it would take as many as 300."

Refugees will need support

Wellington deputy mayor Justin Lester said many refugees had mental health issues and it was important they came to an area where there were other refugees for support.

He said volunteers were needed to mentor and buddy them, and employers could help by considering them for jobs.

Refugee Trauma Recovery general manager Jeff Thomas said the service provided therapy for about a third of refugees arriving in the city.

"We're currently having to raise money to fulfil our commitments to our clients, so if there is to be any increase in refugees coming through, we'll need appropriate extra resources, according to the numbers."

Red Cross - which settles most refugees in New Zealand - said it was encouraging people to welcome Syrians by volunteering and making donations to help to settle them.

Secretary General Tony Paine said fleeing to a foreign land could be a bleak experience and the process of resettlement needed to be handled carefully.

He said the outpouring of generosity from New Zealanders bode well for the welcome the refugees would receive.

The Red Cross works with refugees for up to a year after they arrive.

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