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School offers shelter for Muslim migrants affected by Auckland floods

Fadumo Ahmed (left) and Asya Mohamed Abeid from the New Zealand Women's Ethnic Trust, at May Road School which has opened its doors to shelter migrants and Muslims during the Auckland floods.

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Fadumo Ahmed (left) and Asya Mohamed Abeid.
Photo: RNZ/ Amy Williams

A pregnant woman who arrived in New Zealand last year is among those left homeless and distressed by the Auckland flooding.

The New Zealand Women’s Ethnic Trust is helping recent migrants get the help they need after the devastating storms and it wants more done to help vulnerable people.

Trust manager Asya Mohamed Abeid said she received a call from the woman’s husband concerned about staying in their flood damaged home.

“She’s been sleeping in a corridor. She’s now dealing with the trauma, the only thing she’s looking for is if she can get a private space for her and her husband,” Abeid said.

“I talked to her husband, he said ‘my wife can’t even talk at this stage she keeps crying and feels like she can’t do anything’. We need to find a place for her where she can feel safe and secure.”

Abeid said the couple did not know where to go for help, and the trust was helping to connect them with agencies.

May Road School in Mt Roskill had opened its hall as a safe place for people referred by the trust, including a family from Afghanistan whose house was uninhabitable.

Principal Lynda Stuart said it was a place where Muslim refugees in particular could feel safe.

“They needed a place, a warm dry place to be and they’ve got our school hall. And I’ll put on record it’s not the flashest school hall in Auckland, but it’s warm and dry.”

Stuart said they were working closely with the migrant and Muslim community to provide a comforting space for those affected by the floods

Bedding and food had been provided by the community and women had a separate place to men, if needed.

“There are certainly sensitivities there and we are guided by them and what they need. You can provide the physical needs, the soap and toiletries and food but being really aware of the cultural needs is absolutely imperative,” Stuart said.

Work was underway to find those sheltering at the school emergency accommodation.

The trust’s chairperson Fadumo Ahmed said she and her team were concerned for those whose English was a barrier to accessing support.

“For some people it’s really hard to go through the system. Once they’ve lost their house they’re victims – they need help,” she said.

“They say they’re feeling isolated and that they need more help. We are respecting the culture, they have different needs for food and the clothes they wear.”

The trust had 3500 people under its wing in the Auckland region, many of whom were women or people with disabilities, but all were migrants.

For some, Ahmed said the flooding had reminded them of tragic events they experienced before arriving in New Zealand.

“Some people, they never saw this situation. They have fear and they are remembering what happened before and that’s why they need more care.”

Ahmed called on the government to do more to help migrants who did not qualify for government support: “We are here, we are waiting, please come and help with these vulnerable families.”

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