Key: Syrian refugees need to feel welcome

Prime Minister John Key (Getty)
Prime Minister John Key (Getty)

Prime Minister John Key has succumbed to pressure to help ease the crisis in Syria and agreed to take 600 extra refugees.

Many of them, however, will have to wait up to two years to come here.

"What these refugees need is to feel welcome and safe," says Mr Key.

The Government will take 750 Syrian refugees over three years. Six-hundred of them will come in above the refugee quota. There will be an immediate emergency intake of 100 above the quota and another 150 places within this year's quota.

Then across the two years 2016 to 2018, another 500 Syrians will be taken above the quota.

Four million Syrians have fled the country's civil war – the same as the population of New Zealand.

While the move to accept more people has pleased Syrian refugees who have made it here, such as Nizah Diab, he says the two-year wait for most of the refugees is too long.

"Time means lives."

Mr Key was initially reluctant to accept more refugees. Then came the photograph of Aylan Kurdi and a change of heart.

The Government is also putting up $4.5 million for Syrian refugees in the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

The question now for Mr Key is whether New Zealand's refugee quota of 750 rises on a permanent basis.

The country's two biggest churches say even greater numbers of refugees should be welcomed. Representatives of the Anglican and Catholic churches say their parishes could help around 300 refugee families, or up to 1200 people.

The church leaders say the plight of Syrian refugees has stirred many parishioners into offering help.

Pope Francis has called on every Catholic parish across Europe to take in one refugee family. He made his direct call for help in his Sunday sermon.

It comes as Austria plans to close its border, ending a move that's allowed refugees to travel freely from Hungary to Germany.

Watch the video for the full report.

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