Sunday, June 22, 2008

Refugees come home

Source: Manawatu Standard

Twenty seven refugees from Bhutan arrived in Palmerston North yesterday, several of them friends or relatives of a group of 17 who settled in the city in April this year.

There were cries of delight, hugs and in one or two cases a few tears as many years of being displaced persons came to an end. Some had spent 15 years or more in refugee camps in southern Nepal.

For children born and raised in the camps, Palmerston North represents a chance to move into a home of their own for the first time in their lives.

"They are fresh from six weeks at the Mangere Reception Centre where they received orientation," said RMS Refugee Resettlement volunteer programme co-ordinator Lorna Johnson.

"Volunteers will spend the evening with their [assigned] families, have dinner with them and help them settle in and catch up with families from the other intake.

"We have quite a mixture this time. Some are highly educated and others have trade skills."

Appropriately, yesterday was World Refugee Day.

Many earlier refugees were waiting at Palmerston North International Airport to greet the arrivals.

"What's it like to be on the other side of the line this time?" one was asked.

"It is good, very good," he said.

Tonight the latest refugees will be guests of honour at a welcome dinner organised by earlier Bhutanese, Burmese and Congolese settlers.

Mrs Johnson said it could be two months before RMS Refugee Resettlement hears if any more refugees are likely to be directed to Palmerston North.

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