The resettlement of refugee families to Levin, which was meant to take place next month, is on hold for the foreseeable future as a result of Covid-19, according to the Red Cross and New Zealand Immigration.

As New Zealand has closed its borders to foreign nationals, UN refugee agency UNHCR and the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) have suspended refugee resettlement departures on March 22 accordingly.

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New Zealand has so far this year received 795 refugees, 135 of whom are waiting to move to Blenheim or Timaru from the Mangere refugee centre.

The process of their resettlement has been on hold too, due to Covid-19 restrictions, which made the usual wrap-around services offered impossible to deliver. These refugees arrived in NZ prior to the lockdown.

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A New Zealand Immigration statement dated May 15, 2020 said: "No further Refugee Quota intakes are now scheduled to arrive for the 2019/20 Refugee quota."

New Zealand usually takes 1000 refugees each year, a quota that was meant to go up to 1500 from July this year.

It is unclear whether either one of these quota will be made up for next year.

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New Zealand Red Cross acting GM Migration Sue Price said she doesn't know where the families who were meant to settle in Levin are at this moment in time.

"All travel has been suspended and our borders are closed. The families that were meant to come to Levin are still in their host country. The Government is working on solving this."

She also said the settlement of refugees is not easy and the current global pandemic is making this even more difficult.

"Refugees are at-risk people who live in very difficult circumstances."

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