ASEP Investigates: The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

– A Campaign milestone update

Recently our Government team sat down with Suzanne Malan, a principal advisor at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), to ask how they are actively fulfilling the promises they made in their Refugee Resettlement Plan.

The overarching vision for the strategy is simple: to get refugees socially and economically integrated fully into New Zealand society “…so that they are living independently, undertaking the same responsibilities and exercising the same rights as other New Zealanders and have a strong sense of belonging to their own community and to New Zealand.” (Immigration New Zealand)

While this is a fantastic step towards improving the refugee resettlement experience, several aspects of its implementation remain vague and require continued monitoring to ensure that improvements occur.

With this in mind, ASEP’s inquiry concluded with some unresolved questions. Notably, some answers were ambiguous and were rounded off with an admission of needing to “double check”.

The Good News The Bad News
Due to the scarcity of interpreters, MBIE are looking to expand their interpreter services across the board This will not be immediate and there is a lack of information around the scope of this
Every current and future Asylum Seeker whose claim has been successful will be referred to a contact person/navigator to
assess service needs – MBIE plans to test the role and evaluate it in January
This is specific to post-acceptance. It is unclear as to whether or not this was on-going service, it seemed to be more of
a one-off consultation. Unclear as to whether this would be limited to Auckland
According to MBIE there is no actual distinction between convention and quota refugees: it is a practical issue and service
providers are not aware
This is inconsistent with the statement of Andrew Lockhart at the Asylum Forum 2018 – Cabinet decided to distinguish Quota
and Convention refugees in the resettlement programme
MBIE admitted that 3-month work visas were not feasible and were looking to extend to 12 months Timeframe of implementation remains unclear
  Funding will not be increased to Pathways to Employment and NGO’s.

MBIE unfortunately also dodged some of ASEP’s harder hitting questions regarding mental health services for refugees. Although there are complexities around addressing the specialised services required for refugee trauma, the lack of services was justified by stating that it is generally difficult to access mental health services in New Zealand. This was an unacceptable answer to the ASEP team, who pushed the point that these services were unrelated to the general community’s concerns with mental health services, which was acknowledged. Regardless, no promises were made.

Housing was another issue that was brought up during the meeting and it was concluded that the people most likely to get help were those who are worst off or homeless. Again, no strategies or timeframes were mentioned.

Overall, MBIE’s approach to the Resettlement Strategy is a step in the right direction. However, has also shed light on some troubling gaps concerning information on services pre-acceptance, mental health, and housing, which ASEP will continue to fight for.