• Valley Project

Please help us: plea from refugee families

Updated: Mar 27, 2019


Mustafa and Zahra Allo with three of their eight children, from left, Rokan (6), Ruhaina (7) and Ruqaya (10) have to move out of their North East Valley home in two weeks and are desperate to stay in the valley where their family is settled, but they cannot find a safe, warm, dry, affordable home here.

BY JULIE HOWARD (WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY EDITH LEIGH)


THREE MUSLIM refugee families, one of whom lives in a house described as "not fit for human habitation", have turned to their community desperate for help to find new homes after pleas for assistance hit a brick wall with government and partnered support agencies.

One family has been given notice and the other two families live in appalling houses which have holes in the roof, wet carpets and insufficient heating.

The families are distressed, panicked and gravely worried about their health.

They are appealing to the valley community for help to find safe, warm, dry and affordable homes for the long term in the valley.

All three families are desperate to stay in North East Valley after they were settled here by Immigration New Zealand into private rental properties.

They have made friends in the area, their children are settled at school and they don't want to uproot again to move across the city.

Since the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch in which 50 people were killed, the families are scared. One family now sleeps all together on the floor after they experienced strangers turning up at night outside their home.



"My family is tired and sick"


Syrians Ahmad Al Ghanem and Hamda Al Salem and their six young children arrived eight months ago and live in dire conditions. “[There are] many holes in roof,” Ahmad says. “My family [is] tired and sick.”

The family has been struck with respiratory illnesses since they moved into their private rental property, and their four-month-old son has needed hospital care.

Community member Mark Dyer who visited the family to see if he could do anything to help was shocked at the state of the house. When he lifted the carpet it was wet underneath, he says.

“The house is unfit for human habitation,” Mr Dyer says.

Edinburgh Realty Property Management has released them from their tenancy but the family has nowhere to go. They feel part of the local school community.

“Can you help my family find a new house?” Mr Al Ghanem asks.

Palestinians Yacoub Altay and Nisreen Abuzahra and their three adult sons arrived only four months ago. They face a similar situation: for $425 per week they rent a house with holes in the roof and floor, water leaking through the ceiling, and no working oven or washing machine.

“I talk with Housing New Zealand, Work and Income, Red Cross,” Yacoub says. “No one listens to me.”

Their son, Yousef (24), says they were excited to come to New Zealand. “We were very happy.” The family wants to stay in North East Valley where they have made friends, rather than going to a new area where they know nobody.



"I don't want to leave my community."


Mustafa and Zahra Allo and their eight children, who are from the Kurdish part of Syria, have been given notice to move out of their house due to renovation plans. Negotiations to remain in the home have been unsuccessful.

“I have been in this house for two years,” says Mustafa. “I don’t want to leave my community.” His children are settled at school where they have made friends and are learning English fast.

Mustafa says people in the valley are kind and good and he feels safe. He wants stability for his family and not to have to move every six months.

“I have a big family. It’s hard. It’s hard for emotion. It’s hard to make another friend. Everything is hard.”

The family has struggled to find a house that is not too expensive, and some landlords turn them down because they are a big family, he says.

It is difficult to concentrate on learning English when he spends so much time looking for a house. “English is very important in our life to get a job, be in the community with people and to make our life good so we don’t need to worry.”