Asylum Seekers Equality Project
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The Asylum Seekers Equality Project is campaigning to have people with convention refugee status included under the New Zealand Government’s Refugee Resettlement Strategy.#SameCircumstancesSameSupport
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Understanding the Distinction
All former-refugees in New Zealand have fled from certain death or persecution in their home countries. Yet depending on how they arrived in New Zealand, they are labeled and treated differently.
Some people are allocated for resettlement in New Zealand by the United Nations under a quota set by the government and are labelled “quota refugees”. Others, called asylum seekers, manage to reach New Zealand by their own means and claim refuge once they arrive. If their application is successful, they are labelled “convention refugees”.
The only distinction between people with quota and convention refugee status are their labels. Both have fled the same wars, persecution or circumstances and therefore deserve the same support.
However, Convention refugees are not extended the same rights and services that are offered to quota refugees. As a result, they are often left to navigate the complexities of resettlement alone.
Why it Matters
If people with convention refugee status are not afforded the same basic rights and services as people with quota refugee status, their ability to build a new life in New Zealand is severely limited. They are hindered in their efforts to learn English, find a job or access housing and medical care. This causes severe stress, and aggravates existing trauma.
It is equally as important for our communities that former refugees have positive resettlement experiences. Studies have continuously shown that former refugees perform just as well in school as their peers if provided with the right support, and that they become assets to their communities and to the economy if given the tools to resettle successfully. If resettlement support is not provided, it results in long-term dependence on social welfare services.
Providing equal resettlement support for all refugees in New Zealand is far more beneficial to our society as a whole. When interviewed for ChangeMakers report Marking Time, people with convention refugee status all stressed that they do not want to be a burden on New Zealand. Rather, they chose to resettle here because they saw it as a place where they where they would get a fair chance to start a new life and contribute to their communities.
Our Campaign – Equal Support
In 2013, ChangeMakers Refugee Forum published Marking Time, a report that highlights the inconsistencies in treatment that people with quota and convention refugee status receive. Whilst the report was concerning, it received minimal media attention, and thus drew little support. In 2016, ChangeMakers Refugee Forum asked the Human Rights team to read the report and see if we could utilise the research for the work we do in the community. We were shocked at the arbitrary distinction created by the New Zealand government, and so decided to build up a campaign around the issue. Over the past two years, we have worked on raising awareness of the problems faced by convention refugees, and continue to lobby for policy change in the area.
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