Alliance of NGOs, charities and academics call for urgent visa to allow Palestinians to re-settle in NZ

21 Mar 2024 by World Vision
Alliance of NGOs, charities and academics call for urgent visa to allow Palestinians to re-settle in NZ

A coalition of charities, academics, and NGOs are calling on the Government to urgently provide emergency evacuation and visas to allow Palestinians in Gaza to re-settle in New Zealand.

The alliance of more than 30 organisations says the humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire and that New Zealand must step up and provide support.

They have penned an open letter calling on the government to allow Palestinians in Gaza, who have family members in New Zealand, to settle here under a special humanitarian visa, similar to those issued for Ukrainians and Afghans in recent years.

Palestinian - New Zealander, Muhammad Dahlan, says there are thought to be approximately 300-400 people in Gaza who have family in New Zealand who could apply for such a humanitarian visa.

His 14-year-old twin sons and ex-wife are currently sheltering in a garage in Rafah, having fled Gaza City last year. Dahlan’s mother and five sisters also fled Gaza City and are now living in small house in Rafah with nearly 30 others.

They all struggle to get enough to eat, have little access to clean water, and have lost everything, including official documentation such as passports.

“The situation in Gaza is beyond desperate. My father died of a heart attack soon after the conflict began because my family could not access any healthcare.

“My sons are devoid of hope. They are scared of the bombing and of disease. They are devoid of hope and have lost every wish to live. It is devastating.

“My sister cannot get formula to feed her baby; my family are reliant on emergency food supplies which are irregular; they have no access to cleaning products so they cannot protect themselves from disease. It is an awful situation.

“Children and families cannot continue to live in this way. People have no hope. We are begging the New Zealand government to help us to give people hope and a chance at a new life” he says.

Aotearoa Christians for Peace in Palestine and spokesperson for the collective of organisations behind the open letter, Cole Yeoman, says there is widespread support for a special humanitarian visa for Palestinians.

“This is not simply a call from Palestinians. This is a call from humanitarian agencies, churches, and academics. There’s a groundswell of support for New Zealand to actually do something tangible to support the Palestinian people. This is something we can do that will truly make a difference,” he says.

World Vision’s Head of Advocacy and Justice, Rebekah Armstrong, says New Zealand has a track record of stepping up in humanitarian emergencies.

“We provided humanitarian visas for Ukrainians when their lives were torn apart by war, and we assisted Afghans to leave and resettle in this country when the Taliban returned to power. The situation for vulnerable Palestinians is no different.

“Palestinians are living in a perilous environment, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes; children and families starving with literally nothing to eat; and healthcare and medical treatment nearly impossible to access.

“Kiwi Palestinians are desperate to help their family members come here. New Zealand can offer Palestinians a lifeline and we urge the government to step up, show compassion, and be a good global citizen.”

Armstrong says any humanitarian visa needs to be accompanied by a fulsome resettlement programme which includes orientation and support to access education, employment and other services.

Since October 7, 2023, more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and more than 70,000 have been injured. Around three-quarters of the population (1.7 million people) are now internally displaced.[i]

Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand’s Executive Director Shaun Greaves says the New Zealand government must show stronger leadership to address this humanitarian catastrophe.

"We all deserve to live in a world free of violence, where we can put our children to bed at night knowing they’ll wake up safely the next day. Aotearoa New Zealand can and should welcome people whose lives and families have been torn apart in Gaza. At the same time, we want to see the Government doing all that it can to actually secure a sustained ceasefire and address the devastating human rights violations that have occurred."

Yeoman says the alliance of organisations also wants to see the Government provide emergency evacuation assistance to help Palestinians leave Gaza through its consulates in the region, just as it did for Afghans in 2021.

“We know that it’s difficult for people to leave Gaza, but it’s not impossible. New Zealand has the diplomatic relationships to help Palestinians leave Gaza and we’d urge the government to provide this assistance to ensure Palestinians can leave safely, with the assurance of a humanitarian visa and comprehensive support to re-settle in New Zealand.”

He says the open letter has been presented to the Prime Minister Hon. Christopher Luxon; Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Hon. Winston Peters, and the Minister for Immigration Hon. Erica Stanford.

The coalition of organisations is urging the Government to respond within the week.

You can view the open letter here.

Organisations that have signed the open letter include:
  1. Palestinian Youth Aotearoa
  2. Justice for Palestine
  3. Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa
  4. World Vision New Zealand
  5. Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand
  6. TearFund NZ
  7. Save the Children NZ
  8. Greenpeace Aotearoa
  9. Christian World Service
  10. Action Station
  11. HOST International Aotearoa New Zealand
  12. The Refugee Alliance
  13. Change Makers Resettlement Forum
  14. Just Community
  15. Asylum Seeker Support Trust
  16. Sakinah Community Trust
  17. Dayenu: New Zealand Jews Against Occupation
  18. Sh’ma Koleinu | Alternative Jewish Voices
  19. Aotearoa Christians for Peace in Palestine
  20. Sudanese Society in New Zealand
  21. UNESCO Chair on Dance and Social Inclusion, University of Auckland
  22. Waikato Arab Social Club
  23. New Zealand Arab Association
  24. UnionAID
  25. Migrant Action Trust
  26. Mahi Mihinare | Anglican Action
  27. Anglican Advocacy
  28. Common Grace Aotearoa
  29. Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand
  30. English Language Partners NZ
  31. Centre for Asia Pacific Refugee Studies, University of Auckland
  32. National Tertiary Network to Support Refugee Background Students
  33. Te Ao o Rongomaraeroa | National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago
  34. Kā Rakahau o Te Ao Tūroa | Centre for Sustainability, University of Otago