16,000 sign NZ petition urging more support for Gaza – tabled in House

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Opposition Labour MP Phil Twyford holding the petition
Opposition Labour MP Phil Twyford holding the petition which has been signed by more than 16,000 people urging the government to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people. Image: RNZ/Anneke Smith

By Anneke Smith, RNZ News political reporter

A petition urging the New Zealand government to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people has been tabled in the House.

More than 200 people gathered on Parliament’s forecourt today and they were met by MPs from Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori.

Member of the Palestinian community Katrina Mitchell-Kouttab presented Labour MP Phil Twyford with the petition, signed by more than 16,000 people.

Twyford said Labour unequivocally supported the call for special humanitarian visas for families of New Zealanders currently trapped in Gaza.

“We created a special visa for the families of Ukrainian Kiwis so they could sponsor their families to escape the war zone. To not do so for the people of Gaza is a disgraceful double standard,” he said.

Green Party co-leader Chlöe Swarbrick reiterated her party’s support for special visas.

“The Minister of Immigration has patronisingly said that the government do not want to offer what they call false hope to the people of Palestine. Let us say, that’s for the people of Palestine.

‘Offer consistency’
“It’s not for politicians in this place to patronise the people in Gaza and tell when what they should or shouldn’t hope for. The very least we can do is offer the consistency that we have to those affected in Ukraine by Russia’s aggressions.”

Last week, the government was urged to create a special humanitarian visas for Palestinians in Gaza who have ties to New Zealand.

It followed more than 30 organisations — including World Vision, Save the Children and Greenpeace — sending an open letter to ministers asking they step up support and help with evacuation and resettlement efforts.

More than 200 people gathered at Parliament in support of a petition urging the government to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.
More than 200 people gathered at Parliament in support of the petition. Image: RNZ/Anneke Smith

Immigration Minister Erica Stanford acknowledged there was an “unimaginable humanitarian crisis in Gaza” but said issuing special visas would not assist people.

“Those people in Ukraine were able to leave. They were able to get on a plane and get to New Zealand. The situation in Gaza is that they cannot leave.

“I’m not going to be issuing visas, which is issuing false hope, for people on a great scale who cannot leave. As and when the situation changes, we will reconsider our position.”

Labour MP for Nelson Rachel Boyack, a Christian, said she was calling on MPs of all faiths in Parliament to stand up for Palestine.

‘War about land, power’
“Our religion and our faith has been used to fight a war that is fundamentally about land and power. I said in the House earlier this week in the debate that as a Christian, it pains me greatly to see other people of faith misuse their faith to kill and harm other people.”

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has announced plans to attend a NATO meeting in Brussels, and meet with counterparts in Egypt, Poland and Sweden.

The urgent humanitarian situation in Gaza will be a focus of the trip, with Peters saying New Zealand was part of an “overwhelming international consensus demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire”.

“This travel will allow us to share information and perspectives with a range of interested parties and coordinate on broad international action,” he said.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said Peters did not need to travel to the region to understand the need for further humanitarian support.

“it’s good to hear the minister talking about some support but we can do it now,” sdhe said.

“It’s right now that people are starving and dying without water and medical supplies. We can actually see that from here and that decision can be made right now to use all of the levers to get that kai and food and medical supplies through.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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