Past work

New Zealand has a world leading asylum determination system and refugee resettlement programme. The Government, Non-Government Organisations and communities provide a wide range of support to asylum claimants and people from refugee backgrounds.

Asylum claimants and people from refugee backgrounds come to New Zealand in a variety of ways and have very different experiences depending on the context in which they find themselves in this country. While most have a good experience and settle well in New Zealand, there are small number who continue to fall through the cracks.

In their 2013 report Marking time: experiences of successful asylum seekers in Aotearoa New Zealand ChangeMakers Refugee Forum explored the extent to which successful asylum claimants were able to participate in Aotearoa New Zealand life. It revealed that successful asylum claimants, also known as Convention refugees, find it difficult to access interpreters and opportunities to learn English.

They may also be forced to wait many years before gaining permanent residency. Changemakers note that not only does this mean prolonged periods of uncertainty it also presents major challenges for this group in accessing education, housing, healthcare, welfare benefits, employment and opportunities to be reunited with family members. The realisation of economic social and cultural rights at an early stage can have an impact on long term settlement outcomes. It also has the potential to adversely affect the process for determining refugee status.

This discussion examined the relevant international and domestic human rights framework and the components of core economic, social and cultural rights. It then considered these requirements in the context of the stories and experiences that have been shared with us.

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.