Refugee resettlement a focus for government action

  • Lianne Dalziel

Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel said today that the coalition government has done more in two years than the previous government had in nine years to address refugee resettlement issues.

“When I became the Minister, I inherited a portfolio and refugee issues that had been neglected for nine years”, Lianne Dalziel said.

“Non-government organisations presented me with a report on the state of refugee resettlement policy in February 2000, which highlighted significant deficiencies in several areas, including the lack of support for family members of refugees and for asylum seekers.

“This government has systematically worked through these concerns, and we still have some way to go”.

There are costs associated with refugee resettlement across several Votes, which arise from quota refugees (750 a year), asylum seekers who are granted refugee status (200-300 a year) and family members (minimum 250 a year) who come subsequently. There are also costs associated with asylum seekers who do not have a United Nations Convention claim for refugee status. It is difficult to separate the different components, but, the total estimates indicate the following: (NB Child Youth & Family and Housing have not been able to disaggregate costs, but do not regard the costs as significant.)

The first year resettlement costs for NZIS, Work & Income, Health and Education, identified somewhere in the vicinity of $15.7 million, however, some of that amount includes family members of refugees and asylum seekers who are granted refugee status. (See table 1 below)

Lianne Dalziel said these costs are seen as New Zealand’s humanitarian contribution to what is an international refugee programme of overwhelming proportions.

“New Zealand needs a better integrated, well-resourced resettlement policy and implementation strategy, which we are now on target to achieve.

“New Zealanders have responded compassionately to people driven from their countries due to persecution, conflict and terror. New Zealand wants to be part of the solution.

“If Mr Prebble’s logic had been followed in the past, Jewish refugees would have been returned to Germany after the war,” Lianne Dalziel said.

Table 1

Quota refugees (750)
Estimated First year Resettlement Costs. NB: Work & Income estimates reduce in outyears, and NZIS first year costs are the only costs incurred.

  $M $ per person
NZIS 4.132 5,509
Work & Income 5.195 6,926
Health 3.13 4,173
Education 3.275 4,366
Total: 15.732 20,974 (per person)

Family members of refugees (250) and asylum seekers who are granted refugee status (200-300)
Work & Income, Health and Education figures have not been disaggregated, so are partly included in the above.

Asylum Seekers (estimate 1500 of which 200-300 will be determined to have refugee status). $12,427 covering RSB initial determination; RSAA costs; legal aid; removal costs; benefits; education; health screening

(NB this figure was previously estimated at $30,000, however, the dramatic reduction in the average times for initial hearing from 3 years to 3 months has had an impact.)

Table 2

The coalition government's record of achievement with respect to refugee policy is as follows:

  • Funding for 'Refugee Voices', a qualitative research project designed to gain an understanding of resettlement issues as they relate to New Zealand
  • Establishment of Ministerial Advisory Group on Immigration including a refugee sub-group
  • Increased resources to clear backlog of asylum claims (over 3000 asylum seekers waiting for first hearing at the end of 1999; more than halved by end of 2001 - average waiting time for first hearing reduced to 3 months)
  • Funding for Auckland Refugee Council Hostel for asylum seekers
  • Doubling of immigration component of funding for Refugee & Migrant Services, the main NGO involved in refugee resettlement - no increase had been received in funding since 1991 until the coalition government acted
  • Funding for pilot programmes to assist refugee family resettlement
  • Developed a special family reunification pool for refugees of 250 a year commencing 1 July 2002
  • Negotiated 300 family reunification places in the UNHCR quota of 750 for 2001/2002
  • Ministry of Education has employed refugee education co-ordinators to liaise between schools and refugee families
  • Put additional resources into ESOL needs in schools, and commenced work on a NZ Adult ESOL Strategy
  • Commenced work on Interpreter Services Pilot through Office of Ethnic Affairs