A PEACEFUL life is what former Colombian refugee Wilson Medina wishes for his family as they make Invercargill home.
“I hope they feel safe, peace and tranquillity… and have a better standard of living,” he said through an interpreter.
Mr Medina, his wife Jacqueline and their four children are among the first three families to relocate to the city as part of New Zealand’s refugee resettlement programme.
The initial group of 15 had now become 16 after Mr Medina’s brother Luis and his wife Melida welcomed the birth of their fourth daughter at Southland Hospital last week.
They are among millions of Colombians displaced during a 50-year civil war between the Colombian government’s armed forces and guerrilla soldiers, paramilitaries and drug cartels.
Mr Medina said his first impressions of New Zealand were “it is really calm, quiet and very beautiful”.
He was grateful the people of Invercargill had welcomed them and said he intended to repay that kindness with hard work and making a contribution to the city.
In Colombia, Mr Medina ran a radio station, owned his own farm and was a leader in his community.
The Colombian families were officially welcomed at a reception at the Invercargill Public Library on Friday attended by about 40 people including kaumatua Michael Skerrett, Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt and Red Cross staff and volunteers.
During his address, Mr Shadbolt told the Colombian families he was delighted to have them in the city and he looked forward to seeing them again at a future citizenship ceremony.
“[Once New Zealand citizens] no matter where you go in the world you will always be welcomed back here because this is your home,” he said.
Refugee Mauricio Calero also spoke at the reception through an interpreter.
“Thanks to God to give us the opportunity to be here in this wonderful country,” he said.
“For my family and the Medina family, we are very happy to be here in this country because this country is a very safe place for us.
“We are grateful to the Government, Red Cross and organisations who have made this possible.
“Thank you for opening the doors of this beautiful city.”