Refugees reassured ahead of Dunedin move

Refugees reassured ahead of Dunedin move

Forty-five refugees on their way to Dunedin are excited to begin their new life, after meeting with a fellow Syrian to talk about their new home.

Mouhannad Taha escaped the Syrian conflict to Dunedin in 2012 and he came to help calm anxieties of the refugees currently undergoing the six week programme at Mangere resettlement centre in Auckland on Tuesday.

The refugees were told it occasionally snows in Dunedin, they said it would be "much better" than being hit with bullets and bombs.

Mr Taha told the Otago Daily Times their questions were on a range of topics including education, weather, foreigner treatment and attitudes. Some became emotional when hearing about the peacefulness and security in Dunedin.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) refugee resettlement coordinator Sarah Ward said Mr Taha was asked to come to the centre to give explanation and perspective, drawing from his own experience.

"Normally, when families come they are a bit nervous about transitioning into the community. We just thought this would give them peace of mind. It's always nice to know you are going to a friendly place," Ms Ward told ODT.

It was also an added comfort to them when able to hear their questions answered in their native Arabic language.

Quota refugees are given permanent residency on arrival in New Zealand. They spend their first six weeks at Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre in Auckland where they complete a reception programme to support living and working in New Zealand and also lessons in the English language.

The refugees will move from the resettlement centre to Dunedin on April 22.

INZ paid for Mr Taha to come to travel from Dunedin to speak.