Refugee Resettlement

In early 2019 the Government announced that Levin will join Whanganui, Blenheim, Masterton and Timaru as host towns for refugee resettlement. The process began in July 2020.

The new arrivals, from Colombia, will be supported by Red Cross in their first 12 months. They will help the new residents by coordinating enrolment in GP practices, early childhood centres, schools and English as a Second Language classes, as well as employment.


When will the refugees arrive?

 The resettlement of refugee families to Levin is on hold as a result of COVID-19.

Who is a refugee?

Refugees are people who have been forced to flee from their homeland, often because of their ethnicity, religion or beliefs. They have experienced war, persecution, discrimination, racism and oppression.

Refugees have been denied basic human rights in their country of origin and are unable to safely return home.

The term ‘refugee’ is a technical one that is defined under the 1951 Refugee Convention as someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

What is the difference between migrants and refugees?

Migrants make the decision to move based on an element of choice. They are looking to better their circumstances, and are generally able to decide where they will migrate to. Migrants choose to move not because of a direct threat of persecution or death, but mainly to improve their lives by finding work, or in some cases for education, family reunion, or other reasons.

Refugees on the other hand are forced to leave their homes due to fears of violence and persecution. Their situation is often so perilous and intolerable that they cross national borders to seek safety in nearby countries, and thus become internationally recognized as “refugees” with access to assistance from States, UNHCR, Red Cross and other organisations. They are so recognised precisely because it is too dangerous for them to return home, and they need sanctuary elsewhere.

Refugees are defined and protected in international law. The 1951 Convention defines who is a refugee and outlines the basic rights which States should afford to refugees. Once they have left, refugees have little control over where they end up. This is instead determined by the UNHCR and refugee-accepting states, like New Zealand.

How are refugees selected to come to New Zealand?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the international organisation responsible for protecting refugees and seeking durable solutions for them. UNHCR decides which refugees are in the greatest need of resettlement and asks settlement countries to consider accepting them. The NZ government decides of the priorities for the refugee quota every three years.

Immigration New Zealand then makes the final decision about who will be included in the quota.

How can we be sure the refugees we accept are safe?

All refugees who arrive under the quota have undergone an initial security check conducted by the UNHCR, then a further check conducted by Immigration New Zealand.

Because New Zealand determines when refugees arrive in the country, we have the time and resources to do very thorough security checks.

People coming under the refugee quota to New Zealand are recognised as refugees precisely because it is too dangerous for them to return home, and they need sanctuary elsewhere.

Shouldn’t we take care of our own people before taking care of others?

Both can be done at the same time. There are a number of organisations with different specialisations and resources working very hard to support our community.

New Zealand has 70 years of experience with refugee settlement. During that time, refugees have settled, integrated and contributed positively to their communities.

It is important to appreciate the contribution we receive from former refugees who often want to give back to the community and support their fellow New Zealanders.

Once refugees settle in New Zealand, they become permanent residents, then Kiwi - they are part of New Zealand, so supporting former refugees means helping Kiwis and looking after our own people.

Council will continue to advocate and champion the improved wellbeing for our entire community. This means we are helping people in need, whoever and wherever they come from.

Why don’t countries closer to the problems help refugees?

Because only 26 countries ‘formally’ accept refugees via a quota system, there is a common misconception that these are the only ones helping. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, the vast majority of refugees are hosted in states that do not have a formal acceptance system like ours.

As we have seen in the Syrian crisis, neighbouring states including Lebanon and Turkey have absorbed large numbers of refugees. In Lebanon, there are now over 1.1 million Syrian refugees, comprising a quarter of the country’s total population. In Turkey, this number is as high as 2.5 million.

How will refugees actually make Levin a better place?

Our country has been enriched through former refugees thanks to the music, food, dance, knowledge, courage, perspectives and skills they bring with them. Former refugees who have settled in New Zealand are Members of Parliament, champion cyclists, internationally-recognised business people, poets, award-winning bakers, nurses, international humanitarian aid workers, mental health advocates, actors, restaurant owners and artists, mothers, fathers and friends.

They come from a wide variety of backgrounds, countries and religions and bring significant cultural, economic and social benefits to the country.

This is an exciting time for the new settlement locations to be welcoming former refugees. Existing settlement locations have found it a hugely positive experience and we expect the same in Levin.

How long will it take refugees to find work on average?

Many former refugees who arrive in New Zealand are ready to work and get jobs quickly, while others need time to learn English and study before securing employment.

Red Cross, as the resettlement provider, have a Pathways to Employment team who works closely with former refugees to plan employment and career goals, assist with CV writing, and help secure interviews, work trials and work experience.

Refugees bring with them a wide range of skills and perspectives. Many have been trained as doctors, lawyers, labourers and chefs in their home countries, and may have the skills to fill any labour shortages here in New Zealand.

How was Levin considered as a refugee resettlement area?

To select the new settlement locations, a cross-government New Zealand Refugee Resettlement Strategy Senior Officials’ Group considered the availability of employment opportunities, housing, education, health and cultural support services, local government and community support in locations across the country.

How many will be coming to Levin and where will they come from?

It is planned that three to five families will arrive every eight weeks, with approximately 90 settling in Levin over a year. They will be from Colombia, a Spanish speaking country in South America.

Where will they live?

Families will be provided with a public or private tenancy prior to departing the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre in Auckland. This is sought approximately a month before they leave Mangere and is done through the same processes others within the community would have to follow. Families are not resettled until homes have been secured.