"Nothing harder" - Refugee resettlement

From Here Now, 5:00 am on 10 June 2024

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Each year, New Zealand accepts about 1500 refugees in about seven intakes. In part one of the three-part series - what determines the makeup of these intakes and which countries our refugees come from? 

All of June, we're sharing stories of the refugee experience in New Zealand to mark World Refugee Day later in the month.

As the crises around the world continue to rage in Sudan, Gaza, Ukraine, Democratic Republic of Congo and beyond, the world’s seeing some of the largest number of both refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) face catastrophic conditions. How are refugees received by New Zealand get resettled into wider New Zealand across 13 regions from Auckland to Invercargill?

In this episode of Here Now, Kadambari Raghukumar is at Auckland's Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre, talking to Qemajl Murati, Head of Refugee Quota Programmes, Immigration NZ.

Thousands of Rohingya refugees in a paid labor program to build bridges, drainage infrastructure and reinforce slopes in the Kutupalong and Balukhali refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Photo: AFP / Diego Cupolo / NurPhoto

At the Refugee Resettlement Centre in Auckland, new arrivals are oriented to the country, and both kids and adults spend their days learning English and generally about life in New Zealand.  

The Mulaji family from Democratic Republic of Congo are amongst those here who are about begin their new life very soon. 15 years ago they escaped civil war in DRC to go to South Africa. Diudonne Mulaji was a nurse with Medicin San Frontier in DRC when he had to flee after threats from rebels, and his wife Juliet left after rebels killed her first husband in DRC. The pair met years later in South Africa. Diudonne says he will soon be in Invercargill, where his kids will go to school and he starts a new job, and wants to make his way back to nursing eventually.

A Palestinian man (left), displaced by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip, checks a makeshift tent during dusk at a camp in Deir al Balah, on 13 May, 2024.

A Palestinian man (left), displaced by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip, checks a makeshift tent during dusk at a camp in Deir al Balah, on 13 May, 2024. Photo: AF/ Abdel Kareem Hana

In 2022, the Government agreed to grant Special Ukraine Visas to people from Ukraine with family members in New Zealand. As of April this year 759 Special Ukraine Visa holders arrived in NZ. In March 2024, a new Ukraine Resident Visa category opened. 

While war continues to displace thousands across Gaza and Sudan, New Zealand hasn’t put any special scheme in place to accept refugees from either place as yet. 

Immigration NZ says that only Palestinians who are also citizens of a third country, and their immediate family members are currently being granted exit permits to leave Gaza. The New Zealand Embassy in Cairo continues to petition the Israeli and Egyptian governments for valid New Zealand visa holders to be permitted to leave Gaza. 

Immigration Minister Erica Stanford also said in a statement to RNZ that immediate family members of Palestinian New Zealanders should apply for a visitor visa and their applications will be prioritised. Applications can also be made for extended relatives so that their individual circumstances can be considered.