Migrants, refugees and newcomers

Our work

Cultural diversity and harmonious race relations are promoted through a variety of activities around Race Relations Day, and every day through promoting and protecting the rights of diverse ethnic and religious groups. The Commission encourages all Kiwis to stand up against racial abuse and discrimination; to not be bystanders. Our work in this area is led by Commissioner for Race Relations Dame Susan Devoy.

We work in partnership with others to help individuals and organisations around New Zealand to understand their rights and meet their legal responsibilities. We do this by working with government, business, community partners, education providers, the media and workplaces.

The Commission priorities for action

  • Develop a comprehensive resettlement strategy for refugees and their families
  • Increase refugee participation in policy and service development
  • Review the family reunification policy.

New Zealand’s part in addressing the current global humanitarian crises

The New Zealand Red Cross and the New Zealand Human Rights Commission (the authors) have prepared a paper to brief the Government on ways in which it is proposed that New Zealand responds to international resettlement needs and strengthen its reputation as a leader in refugee resettlement.  

The paper recommends that leveraging off community support the Government:

a) agree to consider options for implementing alternative admissions programmes for those in need of protection

b) agree that any alternative admissions programmes will be in addition to the annual quota.  

You can read the submission here.

Discussion Paper: Treating asylumclaimants with dignity and respect 

The discussion paper, Treating asylum claimants with dignity and respect – the economic, social and cultural rights of those seeking protection in New Zealand, sets out a series of proposals to improve the outcomes of asylum seekers and people from refugee backgrounds. The Commission spoke with a range of people who have used and experienced New Zealand’s asylum determination system and the refugee resettlement programme and used their feedback to develop the proposals for improvement. Read more here.

Refugee Quota Submission

The Commission prepared a report for Government which outlines the Commission position on the Quota Review covering the numbers, the integrity of the Quota, family reunification and additional admissions programmes.

The report recommends that the Government:

  1. Permanently increase the Refugee Quota
  2. Embed the seven UNHCR principles to prioritise refugees for resettlement
  3. Use a generous, culturally sensitive and flexible definition of family when looking at family reunification cases
  4. Consider implementing additional admissions programmes which would offer legal avenues for those displaced to access safety and protection.

You can read the report here.

The New Zealand Diversity Action Programme

The New Zealand Diversity Action Programme is a community initiative which is facilitated by the Human Rights Commission. There are a number of participating organisations related to Newcomers. Read more about the programme here.

New Zealand Diversity Forum 2014 – Migrant and Refugee Employment: Valuing Diversity

2014 marked the 10th year anniversary of the New Zealand Diversity Forum, and the theme that year was – “Migrant and Refugee Employment: Valuing Diversity”. The theme was chosen to reflect the influx of migrant workers to the Canterbury region following the Christchurch Earthquakes.

The Forum offered a unique opportunity to gain a better understanding of the different needs and interests of the many different communities making up Aotearoa New Zealand. It included speakers from AIA New Zealand, the new Zealand Police, Maori Television, BNZ, and Immigration New Zealand and others.

Topics included: 'Employment challenges for newcomers', 'Ethnic people in commerce', 'Lessons for employers of migrants', and 'Migrants, Refugees and the Media.'

Read the full programme: 2014 Aotearoa New Zealand Diversity Forum programme (Word).

Refugees’ human rights reviewed

To mark World Refugee Day, the Human Rights Commission released a consultation document on the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. This is part of the Commission’s Review of Human Rights in New Zealand 2010.

New Zealand is one of only 19 countries that accept an annual quota of refugees, plus a small number of people under the family reunification program. The annual quota is 750 people. In the past 10 years, around 8000 refugees from 56 countries have resettled here. The largest groups have come from Afghanistan, Myanmar and Iraq.

A number of challenges continue to face refugees settling in New Zealand, including the ability to reunite with families left behind in refugee camps or situations of war and oppression. Long delays between refugees arriving in New Zealand and being reunited with their family contribute to social and health issues refugees face, requiring government and community support.

World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day is held on the 20th of June and honours the the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.

It’s almost unfathomable that nearly 60 million men, women and children are now displaced inside and outside of their countries. That is the largest number the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has ever counted and 8 million more than the record set just one year ago.

This year’s theme is "1 family torn apart by war is too many"


Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy has recently called for New Zealand's refugee quota to be raised. Watch her interview on TV3's 'The Nation'.

You can also view the World Refugee Day New Zealand Facebook page here.

Speak Up” – “Kōrerotia

Speak Up” – “Kōrerotia is the radio show of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission engaging in conversations around race, newcomers and diversity in our country. You can listen to the show here.