Each year we help hundreds of former refugees settle into their new lives in Aotearoa New Zealand. Find out about refugee resettlement and the role of New Zealand Red Cross.

Aotearoa New Zealand now welcomes refugees from more than 20 different countries. In the last two decades, New Zealand Red Cross has helped more than 7,500 people to rebuild their lives here.

We support people facing life in a completely new country where they may know little of the language, the culture and the way we live and work. Our Pathways to Settlement and Pathways to Employment and other programmes help people navigate life in their new community.

Refugees add diversity and contribute new skills, cultures and perspectives to our communities and we recognise and celebrate this in our work.

Who are refugees?

Refugees are ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances. They may have experienced war, persecution, discrimination, racism and oppression. Many have been forced to flee their homeland because of their ethnicity, religion or beliefs.

Unlike other migrants, refugees have no choice in leaving their homes and little control over where they end up living.

In 2020, there were 20.7 million refugees globally. Fewer than 1 percent of refugees are resettled each year.

Our work supporting refugees

Most refugees come to New Zealand through either the United Nations Refugee Quota programme, as family members of other settled refugees, or as convention refugees who have sought asylum here. We offer a range of support to all three types of former refugees.

New Zealand Red Cross is contracted by the government to provide settlement services in these locations:

  • South Island – Blenheim, Dunedin, Invercargill, Nelson.
  • North Island – Levin, Masterton, Palmerston North, Wellington.

We provide employment support in:

  • South Island – Ashburton, Blenheim, Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill, Nelson, Timaru.
  • North Island – Auckland, Hamilton, Levin, Masterton, Palmerston North, Wellington.

The refugee journey

Settlement support

Our Pathways to Settlement programme runs in 8 towns and cities where we help people set up homes, connect with their community and navigate life in their new country.

With the help of 130 trained staff and 1,000 refugee support volunteers, we support people for up to 12 months after their arrival. The services we offer include:

  • Settlement support – day to day practical support with settling into life in the community.
  • Future planning – long-term planning including for education, housing, and finances.
  • Orientation information sessions – providing tools to navigate life in a new community.
  • Community integration – linking former refugee families and individuals to their wider communities.

Employment support

Our Pathways to Employment service is available to all former refugees who are receiving a Work and Income benefit in all 13 settlement locations in Aotearoa.

We help people prepare for and find meaningful employment, working closely with them to understand their career aspirations and then connecting them to appropriate training, study, and work opportunities.

Finding employment is an important part of the settlement process. It gives former refugees financial independence and offers them the opportunity to use their skills and contribute to their community.

We work with both former refugees looking for work and with business owners looking to hire former refugees.

Find a job

Employing a former refugee

Support for convention refugees

We also support convention refugees – asylum seekers who have been granted refugee status in New Zealand.

Asylum seekers have limited access to government support while their applications are processed. New Zealand Red Cross works closely with the Asylum Seekers Support Trust (ASST), which provides asylum seekers with access to information, services and resources as they apply for refugee status.

Once refugee status has been granted, New Zealand Red Cross provides support, advice, and advocacy through a community navigator.

Trauma counselling

Refugee Trauma Recovery (RTR) is a specialised New Zealand Red Cross mental health service in Wellington. It provides culturally appropriate support services to people from refugee backgrounds.

We help people to address life challenges from past experiences of war, displacement, violence, and human rights violations, with the aim of improving wellbeing and enhancing the ability of refugees to resettle successfully in New Zealand.

Support for other vulnerable migrants

We support other groups of vulnerable migrants who may not have refugee status, such as Afghans who have fled Afghanistan and are settling here under the government’s residence scheme.

Eight decades supporting refugees

We’ve been helping with refugee settlement since the 1940s, when we supported Polish child refugees who arrived here during the Second World War.

In 2012, New Zealand Red Cross became the national refugee settlement provider and we have since supported over 7,500 people to make a new life here.

More recently, we ran the Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri programme to support over 12,000 foreign nationals with urgent humanitarian needs who were unable to go home due to the COVID-19 border closures.

Our approach

We’re part of the international Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, which works to provide protection and assistance to vulnerable migrants regardless of their legal status and throughout the migration journey.

To ensure we’re providing the best support to former refugees in Aotearoa New Zealand, we work closely with migrant and refugee background communities through our Migration Advisory Group. This group represents a diverse range people from refugee backgrounds who provide insight into issues affecting refugee communities nationwide. They also make recommendations and report on support we provide.

We’re committed to sharing our knowledge and collaborating with other agencies working to support refugee communities. In 2021 we produced a report for regional and local councils, which provides examples of good practice, and recommendations to guide councils working to help settle refugees in their communities.

Our publications