25 Mar 2021

Racism against migrants prevalent in New Zealand, report finds

10:45 am on 25 March 2021

Racism against migrants is prevalent in New Zealand, and the impact spans all aspects of wellbeing including health, housing and employment, Human Rights Commission research has found.

New Zealand's new Race Relations Commissioner, Meng Foon

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon. Photo: supplied

In the report, Drivers of migrant New Zealanders' experiences of racism, many respondents said racism deeply wounded their sense of self-belief resulting in fear, disengagement in society and loss of culture and identity.

Many also expressed how racism led to exclusion, colonised thinking and even judgement of their own culture. As a result, migrants have said they had to change how they looked, dressed, spoke, or acted to fit into Eurocentric expectations in New Zealand.

Migrants pointed out that colonisation, fear, ignorance, a need to blame others, white privilege, racial supremacy, and a limited response to racism within the country were among the drivers of racism.

Recent influences including the Christchurch mosque terrorist attack and the Black Lives Matter movement had increased recognition and willingness to talk about and respond to racism, but there were mixed views about whether there had been a change in racist behaviour.

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon told Morning Report some migrants were feeling unwelcome in New Zealand.

"Some are taunted because of the type of clothes that they wear, the colour of their skin."

He said others do not feel safe expressing themselves in their language.

"They feel intimidated, they feel they need to change their behaviour and they're quite afraid of not being able to be themselves.

"I think because New Zealand's immigration has been quite rapid in the last few years especially of colour people aren't used to immigrants that are dressing differently, that are talking differently, that don't look like them, and therefore create anxiety for them I suppose and they're actually being quite nasty."

Foon said New Zealand has deep racial issues dating back to colonisation, a poll tax on Chinese immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries, through to dawn raids of Pasifika homes and workplaces in the 1970s.

"It's a cumulative effect right throughout our nation's history," he said.

Foon said the research would to feed into the national action plan against racism led by the Ministry of Justice.

"And I think there needs to be some preliminary information for new immigrants when they apply for visas so they actually know what type of country they are coming to in terms of democracy, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, that you can have a diversity of religion, that you can get same sex marriage and all that."

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