Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

$17.2m health funding ringfenced for Syrian refugees

Syrian refugees Yusra Howa and her son Muhanad Slik at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre in 2015. Photo / Nick Reed
Syrian refugees Yusra Howa and her son Muhanad Slik at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre in 2015. Photo / Nick Reed

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has announced $17.2 million of the health budget has been ring-fenced to pay for the health checks and ongoing needs of the 750 Syrian refugees New Zealand has agreed to take.

A total of 298 Syrian refugees have arrived in New Zealand since the Government announced it would take 750 over 2.5 years from Syria in September last year.

Coleman said the funding was for the next four years and would be used for health checks and immunisations at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre as well as the DHBs in Wellington and Dunedin where most Syrians were being re-settled.

"You will have people arriving who have been exposed to some pretty shocking stuff and some of them will need counselling, you may have women who are pregnant who probably haven't had very good ante-natal care. They won't be up to date with immunisations, unsurprisingly."

In September last year the Government announced it would take 750 Syrian refugees by mid 2018 of which 600 would be on top of the usual quota of 750 a year.

The 750 refugees were expected to cost an extra $48.8 million over that period on top of the $58 million a year spent on refugee settlement.

New Zealand's permanent quota will lift to 1000 from 2018.

Cabinet papers released last week showed Immigration officials estimated each refugee cost $81,000 over their first three years in New Zealand.

That included health, education, housing, welfare and employment services.

The papers showed New Zealand rejected about 20 per cent of the refugees put forward for re-settlement by the UNHCR.

Criteria for refusal included refugees with large families which were difficult to house or those with family in another country which they could go to as well as health problems.

The papers also stated there were particular security concerns with Syrian refugees and checks done included SIS vetting and working with the so-called 'Five Eyes' partners: Australia, Canada, the USA and UK.

- NZ Herald

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