The first wave of Syrian refugees could be heading for Wellington, although the Immigration Minister says no decision has been made.
The Government announced yesterday that New Zealand will take 750 Syrians who are fleeing their war-torn homeland over the next two-and-a-half years, including 600 in a special emergency intake.
That came after Prime Minister John Key had initially stated New Zealand would not increase its refugee quota, which stands at 750 a year.
Of the 750 places, 600 will be a special emergency intake and 150 will be offered within the quota.
The office of Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says that with an already significant Syrian population in Miramar, Wellington was a likely destination for the intake.
The Minister later added that no decision had been reached.
"I think the intention is to have a number of communities around the country and Immigration New Zealand will work with Red Cross about where the appropriate places for them are," he says.
He was asked if the government would consider setting up a purpose-built refugee centre in Wellington, similar to the Mangere facility that is being upgraded and expanded in Auckland.
"The settlement programme starts at Mangere but by no means does it end there," Mr Woodhouse says.
"I think what’s really important once the refugees leave Mangere is that they are well supported in their communities, and I’ve certainly been encouraged by the calls from church groups and other NGOs (non government organisations) willing to provide support for those refugees when they arrive."
The heads of the Anglican and Catholic churches yesterday said their parishes would be open to helping refugees.