Marking World Refugee Day across the country

8 July 2024

Around New Zealand our people and local communities marked World Refugee Day and celebrated the successes and contributions former refugees make locally and nationally.

This year the theme has been solidarity – a world where refugees are always welcome.

Here are some snippets from these events.

Tāmaki Makaurau | Auckland

Aotearoa New Zealand Resettled Community Coalition (ARCC) held a celebratory event on Saturday 27 June at Mount Eden War Memorial Hall. Our Pathways to Employment, Community Champion and Employer Liaison, Admon Toma joined the gathering. “It was a lovely celebration including a speech from Honourable, Phil Twyford, traditional Colombian and Syrian music and dance, storytelling and a poetry reading, says Admon.” Many families from diverse backgrounds attended and contributed to the festive environment.

Kirikiriroa | Hamilton

Our Pathways to Employment team worked with members of the Waikato Refugee Forum to organise several events. From 17 to 21 June, the team delivered a series of four ‘Refugee Experience Workshops’ – for schools, the community, Hamilton City Council, and employers. Around 85 people attended and learned more about forced displacement, the struggle for human rights, and the challenges people face when resettling.

On 22 June, our migration team also joined Forum members and people with refugee backgrounds at K’aute Pasifika Fale, to celebrate diversity. The expo-style event showcased information and items of cultural importance from communities settling in Waikato. The Waikato Arab Social Club, Al Rasool Foundation, Congolese, Afar, Colombian, Somalian and Burmese members of the community all participated as well as groups which support former refugees to settle well.

Along with captivating performances of song and dance, and storytelling about different heritage and cultures, there were many tasty world snacks.

A popular activity was a large world map where different communities could identify and colour in their homelands.

Workshop participants: Refugee Forum members, refugee support organisations and our Pathways to Employment team.

Workshop participants: Refugee Forum members, refugee support organisations and our Pathways to Employment team.


Te Oreore | Masterton

As part of the Masterton’s Refugee Settlement Steering Group co-chaired by Imam Mustenser Qamar and District Councillor, Stella Lennox, our migration team collaborated on an article published in the Wairarapa Times Age. The story describes experiences as refugees and the achievements of five new New Zealanders who’ve settled in the area.

They include Tooba, our Settlement Lead and Muneeb, our Cross Cultural Worker, in Masterton.  The article also reflected the strong welcome all newly settled people felt they’ve received from the local community.

Whakatū | Nelson

Around 50 people attended our Pathways to Employment team’s employer community celebration at the Red Cross Service Centre, on Thursday evening, 13 June.

“We celebrated the employment journeys of people we’ve supported. We also acknowledged the immense help from regional employers and organisations who contribute to successful settlement and empowerment of people with refugee backgrounds in Whakatū. A special thank you to Nathan Sharp, Bright Sparks Electrical,” says Pathways to Employment Manager, Chandra Daha.

Several former refugees spoke of their settlement experiences. "New Zealand is like a big tree. Red Cross Pathways to Employment and Pathways to Settlement are the branches and former refugee are the migrating birds. With the help of Red Cross, we can make our nest,” says Zay Yar OO.

Attendees included employers, not for profit organisations who offer work experience placements, representatives from Work and Income, the Nelson Chamber of Commerce, English language providers - Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and English Language Partners, Te Whatu Ora, and our own staff and invaluable volunteers.

The Nelson Mail published an article about Zay Yar OO and his employer Bright Sparks Electrical coinciding with World Refugee Day.

Employee Zay Yar OO and employer Nathan Sharp, Bright Sparks Electrical

Employee Zay Yar OO and employer Nathan Sharp, Bright Sparks Electrical


Te Waiharakeke | Blenheim

Our migration team helped organise an event for the local community on the afternoon of 20 June, at MySpace in the town - to celebrate and welcome former refugees in their new hometown.

The event included wonderful food, dance, music, and games. Colombian, Venezuelan and Rohingya community members with refugee backgrounds joined New Zealand Red Cross, Welcoming Communities, Marlborough Multicultural Centre, Marlborough Youth Trust, and wider community members.

Ōtautahi | Christchurch

The migration team collaborated in ‘Our Home’, an event at the Christchurch Multicultural and Recreation Centre, on 24 June. The day focused on the importance of creating a community where everyone feels connected, welcomed, and integrated.

We celebrated settlement journeys and successes of former refugees in Christchurch, including newly arrived families and individuals – and there were many vibrant cultural performances.

Ngai Tahu, community leaders, and employers came along. A panel event chaired by our Community Champion, Humaira Hakeemi, provided a valuable chance for attendees to hear first-hand the experiences of refugee background community members.

Multiple organisations working in refugee settlement participated, including the Christchurch Refugee Resettlement and Resource Centre, Christchurch City Council, N Z Police, Purapura Whetu, PEETO - The Multicultural Learning Centre, Christchurch Resettlement Services, English Language Partners, Ara Institute of Canterbury, and Hagley College.

Ōtepoti | Dunedin

On Sat 8 June, despite a very cold day, our migration team together with Araiteuru Marae, held a successful market day with many people managing stalls and selling an interesting range of food, craft, clothes and shoes.  Around 140 former refugees and other people from the wider community came together. A special dog agility event attracted many of the children present.

Waihopai | Invercargill

Dance performances in beautiful cultural dress from both Congolese and Colombian youth were highlights of the event our local migration team organised on 23 June. It was held at the Salvation Army Church, with around 150 people attending. Congolese and Colombian community members gathered with our volunteers, and support organisations including, English Language Partners, and Well South and the wider community.

Refugee background and wider community guests at the Invercargill Salvation Army Hall on World Refugee Day

Refugee background and wider community guests at the Invercargill Salvation Army Hall on World Refugee Day


Te Whanganui-a-Tara | Wellington

Changemakers Resettlement Forum (CRF) led this year’s World Refugee Day community event at Naenae College in Lower Hutt. Our migration team, Area Support and our Wellington Branch were also involved.

Also, from 17 to 21 June, Everybody Eats – a pay-as-you-feel dining concept at specific restaurants around the country – led a World Refugee Day project in Te Whanganui - a -Tara. Refugees background groups from a variety of cultures were able to cook food in a commercial kitchen, located out of Ltd., in Dixon St and served a delicious three-course dinner to the public.

The Forum also held an event in Porirua on 22 June with many people from refugee backgrounds and the wider community attending from Horowhenua and the Wellington region.

Also in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, we organised a Parliamentary breakfast co-hosted by Honourable Casey Costello, Associate Minister of Immigration.

Nate Rowe and Megan Sommerville – mana whenua Te Āti Awa Taranaki Whānui -  welcomed everyone with a mihi whakatau and waiata. Our Community Engagement Lead (Lived Experience),  Aklilu Habteghiorghis guided the whole event as MC. 

We were privileged to hear perspectives from three young women. Masheed Major recited one of beautiful, poignant poems, weaving meanings of loss, home, and her culture from Afghanistan. Born in Yemen, Farah Abdullah, spoke of the alienation she experienced in her homeland, the arduous journey she and her mother undertook as refugees in Somalia and Malaysia, to the peace she’s found in New Zealand.

Levin-based, Camila Blair joined Masheed and Aklilu for a conversation to complete the event. She reflected on two important needs: to belong and to maintain her culture.   Also from Levin, Colombian guitarist Jhon Alexander Cadena Rodriquez played and sang beautiful waiata and Colombian songs for all of us.

Honourable Casey Costello and our President, Kerry Nickels also spoke at the event, both embracing the overall theme of solidarity and acknowledging how much former refugees bring to Aotearoa New Zealand.

The event also brought together dignitaries, tangata whenua, Members of Parliament, members of the refugee and migrant communities, Red Cross staff and volunteers and many organisations and agencies involved in supporting refugees and vulnerable migrants. 

2024 World Refugee Day Parliamentary event

Masheed Major, MC Aklilu Habteghiorghis, Camila Blair and Farah Abdullah, World Refugee Day Parliamentary breakfast.


More information

Watch this video about how the weekly Pātaka Ora kitchen at Araiteuru Marae in Ōtepoti creates solidarity with former refugees and always extends welcome to everyone over kai.

The video starts with text and background music.  
Text: Pātaka Ora at Araiteuru Marae brings the Ōtepoti Dunedin community together every week.  
Visual: People entering into Marae.
Text: People from all walks of life prepare food and eat together.
Visuals: close shot with only a hand visible, seasoning a salad then cooking a meal. Shifts to a wide shot of two females putting a tray in the oven.
Voice, a person, Alaa Sukkar, Settlement Lead, Pathways to Settlement, Dunedin, talking to camera:  I'm originally a former refugee from Damascus, Syria. I arrived in New Zealand in late 2017 and Dunedin became my home.
Visuals: people preparing meals and chatting with each other with Alaa's continued voice in the background.
Voice: the main idea of the Kaupapa was to create a collective space, where people can come have the spirit of the community and support each other. It created a really big aspect for our community and our former refugees who are settling in the city. It is very familiar for them. They feel it's home.
Visuals: people are setting up meals at the serving table.
Voice with a person, Najibeh Rahimi, talking to the camera and visual of two people cooking a meal: Pātaka Ora is a very good place, a very free place and wth kind people. Free for me - happiness. Kind people come and speak to each other.
Visual: People sitting in a large dining setup with tables in two long rows, with voice in the background.
Voice with a person, Tania Williams, Rangatira, Araiteuru Marae, talking to the camera: We have a lot of different sectors of our community coming together to feed in this space and we just feel really honoured that we're able to hold it in a te Ao Maori space, which is here on Araiteuru Marae.
Visuals: meals being served with a voice in the background.
Voice, Kelly Campbell, New Zealand Red Cross Pathways to Settlement Manager, Dunedin: We came wanting to bring people together and to create a safe space. A place where there's a sense of belonging and community, life enhancement for ourselves, but also for other people as well. People from all different walks of life just being able to come together.
Voice, Shakoor Barakzai, talking to camera and visuals with people serving meal: I come to Pātaka Ora. I cook the rice.
I cook Khurak. I cook Hamburgers. I love every person, they are very good.

Visuals: long shot of people sitting on the dining table, eating and chatting to each other with a voice in the background.

Voice, English and Te Reo, Tania Williams in the background: It's also, for me, really important about weaving people into te Ao Maori and using this Pātaka Ora as a vehicle to connect people into our world. Everyone is welcome here.  Nō reira, nāu te rourou, raura, nāku te  rourou ka ora ai te iwi e, with your basket and with my basket, we're all going to thrive.
Visuals: people serving meals, eating and chatting to each other.
Voice, Kelly Campbell: It's a really awesome thing to be part of. It has changed our relationship with families, where they sort of see us not just as the person supporting them at the Red Cross, but they see us as community members as well and part of their wider community. So it's just a real plus for everyone, really.
Visuals: people clapping and singing.

The video ends with New Zealand Red Cross logo on the screen.

Learn more about the UN Refugee Agency World Refugee Day’s 2024 global theme of solidarity.

World Refugee Day | UNHCR

How you can help

There are plenty of ways you can get support and connect with former refugees in your community.

Become a refugee support volunteer to help new New Zealanders settle in their new community

Find a volunteer role to help refugees

Give a former refugee a job opportunity. Our teams work with refugee job seekers who have a vast range of skills, qualifications and employment experience.

Employing a former refugee

How we can help

Find out how New Zealand Red Cross can help you and your family settle into a new life in Aotearoa New Zealand

Refugee settlement

If you are from a refugee background, our Pathways to Employment team can help you plan your career, and find and apply for jobs.

Finding a job

Lead photo: Pathways to Employment Manager, Chandra Dahal and guests at the World Refugee Day employer event in Nelson.