Richard Towle, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Regional Representative for Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific cautioned against cutting funding for resettlement services for refugees arriving to New Zealand.
Mr Towle spoke at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in Dunedin on 31 March and discussed the current economic climate and government cost-cutting in New Zealand, and the potential impact upon refugees resettling here: "It is important, in the present economic climate, that good-quality support services [remain] so they can become self-sufficient and independent members of the community." Mr Towle also spoke about refugees being a 'political hot topic' in the lead up to Australia's election this year, and the role of his organisation in providing "balance and measure to the debate on these issues, as they can be quite inflammatory and polarising." You can read his full address online.
The March 2010 intake of UNHCR mandated quota refugees is completing the six week orientation programme at Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.
On 23 April 2010, the refugees will move to their new homes where they will continue to be supported by various agencies in the settlement process. The March intake included 103 people. Their nationalities, numbers and settlement areas are as follows:
- Afghan (9): Christchurch (9)
- Bhutanese (36): Nelson (4); Palmerston North (4); Christchurch (28)
- Myanmarese- Chin (7): Auckland (1); Nelson (6)
- Myanmarese- Rakhine (4): Wellington (4)
- Colombian (25): Porirua (14); Hutt Valley (5); Hamilton (6)
- Congolese (DRC) (19): Auckland (19)
- Ethiopian (3): Auckland (3).
To date this year the Refugee Quota Branch has had selections missions to Uganda, interviewing refugees from Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo; to Ecuador, interviewing refugees from Colombia; and to Nepal, interviewing refugees from Bhutan. Preparations are underway for the May 2010 intake.
The following is a summary of asylum claims received and decisions made at the Refugee Status Branch of the Department of Labour for February and March 2010.
Refugee status claims
In February 2010, 22 refugee claims were lodged with the Refugee Status Branch by asylum seekers of nine nationalities:
- China (4)
- Fiji (4)
- Slovakia (4)
- Turkey (3)
- Egypt (2)
- Iran (2)
- Bangladesh (1)
- Ghana (1)
- Pakistan (1).
In March 2010 there were 22 refugee claims lodged by asylum seekers of 12 nationalities:
- Sri Lanka (4)
- Iran (3)
- Pakistan (3)
- Colombia (2)
- Iraq (2)
- Nepal (2)
- China (1)
- Fiji (1)
- Israel (1)
- Singapore (1)
- South Africa (1)
- Zimbabwe (1).
There has been a notable increase in refugee claims this financial year. To date there have been 286 claims lodged, with an average of 31.8 per month. The previous financial year's claims averaged 20.5 per month (246 in total). To date this financial year there have been asylum seekers of 46 nationalities.
Refugee status decisions
In February 2010 there were 23 refugee claims decided by the Refugee Status Branch. Of those, 6 asylum seekers were approved. They were from Palestine (4); Pakistan (1); and Sri Lanka (1). These people sought asylum due to discrimination on the grounds of religious and political beliefs and ethnicity.
Those who were declined came from Sri Lanka (5); Slovakia (4); Fiji (3); South Africa (2); Brazil (1); Iraq (1); and Kuwait (1).
In March 2010 there were 35 refugee claims decided by the Refugee Status Branch. Of those, 20 asylum seekers were approved. They were from:
- Iraq (6)
- Pakistan (5)
- Zimbabwe (3)
- Sri Lanka (2)
- Iran (1)
- Kyrgyzstan (1)
- Lebanon (1)
- Palestine (1).
These people sought asylum due to discrimination on the grounds of religious and political beliefs, sexuality and ethnicity.
Of the 35, 15 were declined. They were asylum seekers from Fiji (10); Bangladesh (1); Czech Republic (1); Iran (1); Philippines (1); and Sudan (1).
This makes the approval rate for the 2009-2010 period 28.8%, compared with 29.8% for the previous financial year.
Year to date:
There were 118 undecided refugee claims under consideration as at 1 March 2010. Twenty two new claims were lodged in March. Thirty five claims were determined in March. This left 105 undecided claims as at 31 March 2010.
The Mixing Room exhibition displays the work and stories of over 70 young people from refugee backgrounds. It opened on Saturday 10 April at Te Papa Museum in Wellington.
The exhibition features no objects, but three large multi-touch tables and audio visual screens display the works. In addition, a photo-mosaic displays hundreds of photos sent in by refugee communities in Aotearoa. There were a number of speakers and performances at the opening, including poets Anita Azizi and Abdulla Gabriel, both members of the Refugee Youth Advisory Group; the Myanmar Youth Group; and Redelong Tsounga and Crew. The Race Relations Commissioner opened the exhibition. You can visit the Mixing Room at Te Papa, or visit the online blog. There is material online from the Bhutanese, Congolese and Rwandan youth; from Red; and from Martine.
A collection of local artists created works inspired by Burmese refugee children’s art, brought back from volunteers’ recent trip to the Thai-Burma border. The art was auctioned to raise $10,000 for Children on the Edge and its support for Burmese refugee children.
The Good Karma project organised the exhibition and auction. The project was a concept of the Exposure Lifestyles magazine, and combined volunteering and advocacy, youth development, a multi-media platform, the artwork of Burmese children, and collaboration with Aotearoa's creative community. Two volunteers travelled to Thailand to work with the Burmese young people to document their experiences through art and photography. The volunteers then returned to New Zealand with some of the artwork, inspiring local artists to create the auctioned works. You can check out art and photos on their website.
Te Pou o Whakaaro Nui has just released a reference list of Asian, refugee and migrant mental health research in New Zealand from 2004- 2009. It is available online.
akaaro Nui has just released a reference list of Asian, refugee and migrant mental health research in New Zealand from 2004- 2009. It is available online.
The Christchurch branch of Refugee Services Aotearoa NZ is moving from their current address at the Refugee and Migrant Centre, 201 Peterborough Street, Christchurch on 8 April.
Their new address will be Level 1, 285 Lincoln Road, Addington, Christchurch 8024. You can also contact them at P.O. Box 9279, Tower Junction, Christchurch 8149 and 03 339 0483 and 03 339 0721.
The Christchurch Refugee and Migrant Centre closed at the end of March and there have been changes to Canterbury’s Refugee and Migrant Health Service.
The Christchurch Refugee and Migrant Centre housed seven different agencies; services will move to various locations in Christchurch. More information is available online. You can also read more online about the changes to Canterbury's Refugee and Migrant Mental Health Service.
Changemakers Refugee Forum has a vacancy for a General Manager. More details are available on their website.
s Refugee Forum has a vacancy for a General Manager. More details are available on their website.
The Office of Ethnic Affairs is holding an interactive Youth Law forum designed to give ethnic youth and those who work with them useful information about their rights.
The Office of Ethnic Affairs is holding a Refugee and Migrant Forum in Christchurch on 19 May. The forum is open to the public.
The Department of Labour is responsible for organising the National Refugee Resettlement Forum, which will be held in Wellington on 26 and 27 May 2010. Contact Koskwa Shoniwa to find out more about the National Refugee Resettlement Forum.
NZ cannot ignore UN recommendations and must amend the Immigration Act to protect refugees, says Natasha Lewis, Amnesty International intern.