Sébastien Desclée: NZ should use MIQ hotels to help Ukrainian refugees

“New Zealand Converts MIQ Hotels to Welcome Ukrainian Refugees”

There’s a headline I’d like to see.

While New Zealand is dealing with the effects of Covid-19, a human drama is happening in Ukraine and looks to be far from over. Russia’s fierce invasions and massive attacks are creating an unprecedented exodus of civilians in Poland, Romania, Hungary and Moldavia with (to date) approximately 2 million people forced to leave their homes and their countries to protect their lives. While implementing economic measures against Russia will have a potential impact on the Russian regime in the long term, they will not provide the immediate support war victims need.

Many humanitarian agencies have issued statements expressing their commitment to displaced Ukrainians, asking countries to keep their borders open to refugees seeking shelter. In response to this indescribable crisis, an enormous wave of solidarity is happening across Europe with countries, NGOs, organisations and civilians doing all they can to provide the needed support to these refugees. I know countless people leaving Belgium for Poland, delivering much-needed food and supplies, as well as finding homes to host refugees back in Belgium and other countries.

After two years – almost to the day – of being closed to the rest of the world, wouldn’t the current situation in Ukraine provide a timely trigger for Aotearoa to reopen?

The timing couldn’t be better with the New Zealand Government announcing today that MIQ would be dissolved.

The energy and commitment from our country and its authorities would not only be turned inward, focused on protecting against a pandemic, but also looking to the rest of the world, saving the lives of civilians who have lost everything in just a couple of days, due to the imperialist attitude of the Russian leader.

We already have accommodation available, courtesy of the hotels allocated for MIQ purposes. The Government has begun to loosen MIQ requirements, however tourism numbers will not grow again for some months due to visa requirements to enter Aotearoa. There seems to be a gap here.

Apart from this being a basic humanitarian issue, we need it! After two years of complete isolation, we are in danger of becoming insular: Aotearoa has always been a country that has welcomed a blend of different cultures. Welcoming refugee Ukrainians would honour our reputation and our values, and add to our diversity.

We need talent and workforce. Ukrainian immigration will help us to fill some of the many gaps that currently exist in New Zealand, both economically and socially. Ukrainians possess a wide diversity of talent which can only add to the rich fabric of Aotearoa.

Finally, just by doing the right thing, we would put New Zealand back on the world map, demonstrating ourselves as a progressive, empathetic and forward-thinking nation. Because after all, that is exactly what New Zealand is.

My wish is that Aotearoa’s authorities will show the same level of commitment to this idea, opening our borders and putting diplomatic and logistical measures in place to bring refugees back from Europe, as they have demonstrated over the last two years to keep us safely isolated from the rest of the world.

The Ukraine crisis presents us with a golden opportunity to apply the uniquely Kiwi “Number 8 Wire” way of thinking to a humanitarian crisis that is playing out on the world stage. I can’t think of a better application.

– Sébastien Desclée is the chief executive of creative agency FCB New Zealand.

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