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Slow start to New Zealand refugee resettlement

It is now six months since the previous federal government finally accepted the New Zealand government’s offer to resettle 450 of Australia’s refugees over three years, an offer that had been on the table for almost a decade. Yet, at the time of writing, not a single refugee has been resettled in New Zealand. There are some thirty-six refugees whose applications are currently under consideration, but, so far, less than half of them have even been interviewed. The main problem, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, is that, after up to a decade of punitive incarceration on Nauru, Manus island and  other detention centres in Australia, many of the refugees are in such a poor mental state that they are simply not able to engage with the application process. Emily Chipman, at the UNHCR, stated: “The mental health impact of what these individuals have experienced has significantly affected their capacity to engage in the resettlement process and has led to a general lack of confidence. Refugees have evoked concerns about leaving family members behind in Australia, and about not being psychologically strong enough to rebuild their lives in another country.”

In addition, a number of the refugees are awaiting the outcome of their applications for resettlement in Canada or the US, and are therefore not eligible to apply for resettlement in New Zealand.

What is clear is that these people require intensive mental health support in order to
successfully navigate the resettlement process. Given that it is the Australian government that is directly responsible for their terrible suffering, then it should urgently take the necessary steps to put in place the resources required to get the resettlement programme on track. That is surely the least our government can do after inflicting so much harm on these people, who were forced to flee their homelands in search of a safe haven.

Mike Griffin

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