Six times a year a group of former refugees complete their six-week orientation at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre and make their way to their new homes in communities around the country.
New Zealand Red Cross Refugee Services staff and volunteers join members of the local community to welcome the new families and individuals into Auckland, Hamilton, the Manawatu, Greater Wellington and Nelson.
When refugees come to New Zealand through the quota programme, their first six weeks is spent at the Mangere centre, where they receive identity documents and officially become permanent residents of New Zealand. They then go through a six-week orientation programme which introduces them to essential skills and information they’ll need on their resettlement journeys. The programme covers topics from English language pronunciation to New Zealand culture to refugee support agencies and also introduces them to public services like the police.
Six weeks after these families first reach New Zealand, they arrive in their communities and begin to settle in with the help of New Zealand Red Cross Refugee Services and our partners.
Social workers, cross cultural workers, refugee background caseworkers and trained community volunteers help the families with day-to-day tasks like using public transport and support them through processes like registering with a GP, enrolling children in school and setting up accounts with utility providers. Former refugees are also linked with English language classes, interpreting services and more.
Members of the refugee communities also play a key role in supporting the new arrivals in each settlement area. Having been through their own refugee and resettlement journeys, they have a deep understanding of what it means to have left everything behind and to build a new life in a new home. They also share common language and culture with the new arrivals, helping maintain a connection to their home countries while they integrate into New Zealand.
Refugees are people who have been forced to flee their homeland for nothing more than their race, religion or beliefs. This group of new arrivals have come from countries including Myanmar, Colombia, Bhutan, Iraq and Sri Lanka, and have arrived here with little more than they were able to fit in their suitcases and experiences most of us can’t imagine. Separation from their families, detention, torture and violence are just some of the challenges they may have faced on their journeys.
Now they have brought their incredible strength and resilience to New Zealand, ready to build new lives for themselves and their families and give back to the country that has welcomed them and enabled them to finally feel safe.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that as of 2012, there were over 15 million refugees in the world with an additional 23.4 million others at risk from armed conflict and political violence in their communities and countries of origin.
Of those 15 million, New Zealand accepts 750 refugees for resettlement every year, and New Zealand Red Cross Refugee Services supports those 750 people to start again in their new home.
If you are interested in volunteering to support a refugee family, please email RefugeeServices@redcross.org.nz for more information. You’ll change their lives, and maybe also your own.