Small groups of refugee families to be allowed into New Zealand

4:16 pm on 5 February 2021

Refugees will soon resume arriving in New Zealand for the first time since the resettlement programme was frozen last year.

Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre's accommodation buildings.

Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre. Photo: RNZ / Israa Emhail

The Refugee Quota Programme has been on hold since March 2020, when the country closed the borders last year as part of its Covid-19 response.

The only exception had been to a small number of priority emergency cases. By last week, a total of 50 people arrived in the country under those circumstances.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) said with health protocols in place and safe travel routes, the country could now welcome more people in to resettle.

"INZ has been working with partners on plans to resume refugee resettlement when international travel and transit routes are available," INZ refugee and migrant services general manager Fiona Whiteridge said.

The first group of 35 refugees arrive this month, and will complete a 14-day stay in managed isolation. These would be the first of a few "similar sized cohorts" to arrive, Whiteridge said.

Those who arrive under the programme are granted permanent residence and will not pay managed isolation fees.

By the end of June, 210 refugees will likely arrive.

However due to the pandemic's disruption on travel, INZ said the intake of refugees would not reach the planned quota of 1500 places for 2020/21.

In 2018, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the quota would be raised from 1000 to 1500, saying it was the right thing to do.

After completing managed isolation, the families will transfer to Te Āhuru Mōwai o Aotearoa (the Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre) for a reception programme and to finalise housing arrangements, before moving to planned settlement locations.

"INZ and the Managed Isolation and Quarantine agency (MIQ) are working closely together to coordinate the arrival of refugees to minimise any impact on available places at isolation facilities and ensure that the limited resumption of New Zealand's refugee commitments does not displace other people," Whiteridge said.

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