Since the 19th century, when a few refugees arrived to escape political oppression in Europe, New Zealand has accepted refugees from many different parts of the world.
Red Cross nurse Mollie Baoumgren escorts a group of children (including Władysława Kubiak, left) from the USS General Randall in Wellington to a waiting train for the ride to Pahiatua on 1 November 1944. This was the final leg to safety after an almost five-year ordeal of war, misery and exile from Poland for the young mostly orphaned children. Many of them were stuck in places like Iran or Siberia en route. (Victoria University Library)
On 10 December 2012, New Zealand’s world renowned refugee resettlement programme will enter a new chapter, as Refugee Services Aotearoa New Zealand become part of New Zealand Red Cross to further improve resettlement for refugees and their families throughout the country.
New Zealand Red Cross will become the lead agency responsible for the resettlement of quota refugees, with the expertise of the two reputable organisations combining to improve the support provided to newly arrived refugees and deliver greater efficiency.
New Zealand Red Cross President Jenny McMahon says working with and for refugees, asylum seekers and their families is one of the long-standing activities of the Red Cross Movement throughout the world.
“This is a very natural partnership,” says Ms McMahon. “Our national presence, global connections and experience will add opportunities to further strengthen an already world class programme, and bringing the operations of Refugee Services into New Zealand Red Cross will naturally deliver efficiency savings.”
“New Zealand Red Cross applauds the legacy that Refugee Services has achieved in the provision of settlement services, and we are committed to building on that legacy.”
Refugee Services Chief Executive Heather Hayden says the key focus of Refugee Services’ work has been on ensuring former refugees receive a supportive start to life through settling in and being connected to local communities.
“Joining with Red Cross will help us do that more effectively. Together we will provide a stronger foundation for former refugees who want the chance to settle into their new community, find work and contribute to New Zealand.”
Ms Hayden says Refugee Services approached Red Cross because they saw the value in being part of a larger, internationally recognised organisation.
“We are fully confident that as part of Red Cross we can carry on doing the great work we have done for nearly forty years through the work of local communities, volunteers and staff, many of whom came to New Zealand as refugees themselves.”
“All those who have been part of Refugee Services in the past can be confident that the contribution they made in giving people a fresh start in New Zealand will continue through Red Cross.”
Stephen Dunstan, General Manager of Immigration New Zealand, says that it is important that refugees are well supported in their initial settlement in New Zealand and that the agency has been very appreciative of the partnership it has had over many years with Refugee Services.
Mr Dunstan says, “I am confident that Red Cross will continue Refugee Services’ strong community-based approach, connecting new refugees with supportive Kiwis in local communities.”
He noted that Red Cross will also take opportunities to strengthen service delivery by leveraging their strong national and international base.
New Zealand is one of only small number of countries who accept an annual quota of refugees for resettlement. Each year 750 refugees come to New Zealand through the United Nations quota system. They are people who have an immediate and desperate need for protection, unable to go back to their home country or stay in the country to which they have fled.
Currently the majority of refugees coming to New Zealand are from Bhutan, Burma, Colombia, Iraq and Sri Lanka. There are also smaller numbers from Afghanistan, the African continent and the Middle East. Settlement support for their first year in New Zealand is provided through volunteers, caseworkers, social workers and employment advisors.