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Refugees believe New Zealand can do better when it comes to the way they are treated when they want family members to be allowed to join them in their new homeland.
And they want New Zealand to actually take the 300 people each year it allows under its family reunification policy.
Those and other recommendations are the result of research being released this week to coincide with the official visit to New Zealand of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres.
Entitled “Refugee Family Reunification, Mental Health and Resettlement Outcomes in Aotearoa New Zealand,” the academic research was led by Chaykham Choummanivong, a former refugee and the director of the Refugees As Survivors (RASNZ) research unit. The research includes material from focus groups of people, located in Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton, who are refugees and have direct experience of the family reunification process.
Aussie Malcolm, RASNZ’s deputy chairman, says the weaknesses in New Zealand’s family reunification policies and practices, revealed by the research, result in both mental anguish and unnecessary financial costs for refugees.
“The conclusion of this research underscores plain common sense – families being together is a good thing,” Mr Malcolm says. “While there are issues associated with reunification, that are well documentated here and in international research, good policies and practices can help mitigate them.
“When some families are forced to wait three years, have to redo medical tests because of bureacratic delays and then have a new case manager suggest they start all over again, it is simply soul destroying and New Zealand is better than that.”
Dr N. Rasalingham, President of the Refugee Council of New Zealand, in welcoming the new report , says: “ Family reunification is widely recognised as a vital issue for people from refugee backgrounds, but relatively little international research has been reported on its impact in New Zealand. This ground breaking report changes that.”
A meeting with the new Minister of Immigration Nathan Guy is being proposed by the Refugee Council to discuss the implications of the research and how the system can be improved.
The research, supported by the Lottery Research Committee and the Soros Foundation, was initiated by RASNZ at the request of former refugee community groups at a meeting organised by UNHCR in Auckland in 2010.
The report will be given to Mr Guterres by Dr Arif Saeid of RASNZ. The UN High Commissioner will also attend a book launch of “Looking Back Moving Forward”, a selection of addresses and papers presented at a national conference on refugee resettlement, health and wellbeing in 2009. The launch at 3.30pm on February 24 is being hosted by AUT University and RASNZ and the Refugee Council of New Zealand together with various refugee groups at the Wesley Community Centre.