Report highlights plight of refugees

Refugees arriving in New Zealand expect better settlement procedures and a more sympathetic attitude of the governmnet in allowing their families to migrate to this country.

They have also asked the authorities to take 300 people every year, the number officially allowed under the family reunificatoin policy.

These were among the suggestions made in a research paper presented to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres during his recent visit to New Zealand.

Entitled ‘Refugee Family Reunification, Mental Health and Resettlement Outcomes in Aotearoa New Zealand,’ the research was led by Chaykham Choummanivong, a former refugee and director of the ‘Refugees As Survivors (RASNZ) Research Unit.’

The presentation included material from focus groups of people, located in Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton, who are refugees and with direct experience of the family reunification process.

Policy Shortcomings

RASNZ depuy chariman Aussie Malcolm said the research revealed weaknesses in New Zealand’s family reunification policies and practices, and that such weaknesses resulted in mental anguish and avoidable financial costs for refugees.

“The conclusion of this research underscores plain common sense that families being together is a good thing. While there are issues associated with reunification, good policies and practices can help mitigate them,” he said.

Mr Malcolm said that some families are forced to wait for three years and repeat medical tests because of bureacratic delays, only to be told by a new case manager that they have to start all over again.

Family reunification

Refugee Council of New Zealand president Dr N Rasalingham welcomed the Report saying that family reunification was widely recognised as a vital issue for people from refugee backgrounds.

But relatively, little international research has been reported on its impact in New Zealand. This ground-breaking report changes that perception,” he said.

The Refugee Council has propsed a meeting with immigration minister Nathan Guy to discuss the implications of the research and how the system can be improved, he said.

The research, supported by the Lottery Research Committee and the Soros Foundation, was initiated by RASNZ at the request of former refugee community groups at a meeting organised by UNHCR in Auckland in 2010.

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