Kiwis encouraged to privately sponsor refugees

One of the best things you can do for a refugee is befriend them, according to a British man who set up a charity that encourages communities to sponsor people who have been displaced.

The Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative matches up refugees with people and communities who want to privately sponsor them.

It was developed in the UK by Dr Russell Rook, who is in New Zealand sharing his experience of the community-led model of refugee sponsorship.

Rook told the AM Show on Tuesday there are over 65 million displaced people around the world, in what is the worst human crisis since the Second World War, largely brought about by the Syrian civil war.

He said there are around 1.5 million refugees in urgent need of being rehomed, and currently only around 80,000 per year are.

Rook said it is not hard to get involved and privately sponsor a refugee family.

"It is really simple, a community says they want to host refugees in the community and they check with the government if the family is ok. Then they welcome them. You pick them up from the airport, find them a house, put their kids in schools.

"It's about helping them find a place in the community, helping them to find out how the healthcare system works, how schooling works."   

Rook told The AM Show one Kiwi sponsor asked his refugee family what they wanted and they said a friend.

"It is about communities offering up a friendship to refugees."

He said people in wealthier countries need to step up and do more, and over 10,000 Kiwis have registered an interest in sponsoring refugees.

Rook said it can be a two-way benefit with many refugees going on to make a useful contribution to the community.   

"It is also about helping the refugees to make a contribution. One of the things we see in the UK is our sponsored refugees want to give back. They want to do something in the community. One of our first sponsored refugees in the UK is now a chef."

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