Students at Nelson College for Girls participated in a photo petition and gathered more than 200 signatures to show their support of Syrian refugees at the first Amnesty action day of the year.
The event was held as part of the Open for Syria campaign, an appeal requesting the New Zealand Government accept 100 additional Syrian refugees and increase the annual refugee quota.
Year 13 students Poppy Postance and Maya de Larratea Dent, both 17, organised the event. Postance said it was important to encourage the Government to review annual quota of 750, which hadn’t changed since 1987 when the population was much smaller.
“In comparison, Australia has a quota of 20,000 refugees a year,” she said.
Students had the chance to sign a letter and have their photo taken holding a sign with the hashtag #OpenToSyria during the lunchtime event.
The letter expressed concern at the lack of support shown by the international community in regards to the high number of refugees fleeing Syria. It said almost four million desperate people have sought refuge in just five other countries and asked New Zealand to show leadership and protect some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
De Larratea Dent said there had been an Amnesty International group at the school for about 15 years and they were hoping to raise its profile this year.
“We are trying to create positivity and get everyone involved, make it sustainable and educate the younger years,” she said.
She said they were hoping to upload their photos to the Amnesty International New Zealand Facebook to encourage other school groups to do the same.
Postance said the letters would be sent to Parliament through Amnesty Nelson and the photos would be included in the Amnesty International New Zealand photo petition as part of World Refugee Day on June 20.
“It is especially important because a third of the refugees in Syria are children and all of them say the most important thing is education and that is what they are missing out on,” said Postance.
Having fellow students who were refugees really put it into perspective, said de Larratea Dent.
She said they had discussed getting behind the Stop Torture in the Philippines campaign and being a girls’ school, also wanted to do something in support of women’s rights.
Amnesty International activism support manager Margaret Taylor said it was great to see the Nelson College for Girls group spark up again this year and it showed great leadership from a group of dedicated activists.
“Nelson Girls has long been a fantastic bedrock for Amnesty International,” said Taylor.
The actions taken by students in the Open to Syria campaign had a big impact, sending messages of solidarity to refugees and letting them know that we care about their situation, she said.