I HAD my first contact with refugees in the 1980s when our church in Nelson assisted three families to get established there.
There was housing, jobs and land cultivation to organise. Every square inch of weed-infested wasteland was cleared, tilled and planted - put our gardeners to shame.
Like most of the rest of New Zealand, the Government is concerned at the humanitarian crisis now unfolding in Syria and across Europe, a crisis that has visibly worsened in recent times.
Over the next two-and-a-half years, we will settle 750 Syrian refugees here, including 600 people through an emergency intake above our annual refugee quota of 750. The remaining places will be offered within the usual quota.
New Zealand will take 100 of those Syrian refugees in this financial year, and a further 500 over the next two financial years.
It is important the Government's response to the humanitarian crisis is appropriate and that we continue to provide a high level of services to refugees once they get here. We want to ensure they are supported to settle into their new home and adjust to New Zealand's way of life.
Over 120 Syrians have already been settled in New Zealand since 2011.
Once here, refugees complete an orientation programme, focusing on English language skills and information needed to help people settle, including law and customs, and shopping and cooking.
Further support is offered through Work and Income to help new arrivals find employment.
One of the most effective ways we can help address this crisis is by ensuring there are facilities to cater for refugees in countries neighbouring Syria. To this end, the Government has provided a further $4.5 million to help refugees who have been displaced by fighting there, bringing New Zealand's total humanitarian contribution to the refugee crisis to $20 million.
I have already had a myriad of emails insisting this is a vicious plot by Muslims to take over the world by masquerading as refugees and that, as a Christian country, we shouldn't accept Muslims. The emails stop when I ask them to put that in the context of the parable of the Good Samaritan.
New Zealand has a longstanding commitment to meet the needs of some of the world's most vulnerable people.
More than 33,000 refugees have come here since 1944 and National is as committed as ever to improving the outcomes for the refugees we take each year.
We are not picking puppies or choosing kittens here.
With 52 million displaced persons on the planet, somebody has to do something regardless of race or ethnicity.
Chester Borrows is the MP for Whanganui.