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Waitakere: Collaborative approach to resettlement

Collaborative approach to resettlement of refugees and migrants at Waitakere City

Waitakere City Council is working to increase migrants and refugees’ economic development opportunities, social cohesion and sustainable development.

Over 11 per cent of Waitakere City’s population are migrants or refugees with the Asian population being the largest migrant group. Over the past four years approximately 250 quota refugees were resettled here.

The 10 February 2006 launch of Settlement Support is the most recent development in the city’s call to action that ‘every migrant or refugee settles successfully’. The service, funded by Waitakere City Council is based at Citizens Advice Bureaux. Its aim is to connect individuals with information and services that support their settlement, ensuring a point of contact.

Settlement Support New Zealand Settlement Support New Zealand is being facilitated by the Department of Labour. There will be a national network of 19 local Settlement Support initiatives around New Zealand, to better connect migrants and refugees to local agencies and services that support their settlement.

“New Zealand is a nation of migrants – nearly 20 percent of New Zealand citizens and residents were born in another country.

“Migrants, refugees and their families who settle in New Zealand face a range of challenges. A key challenge is locating helpful local information and services that are responsive to their settlement needs,” says Judi Altinkaya, Settlement Director, Department of Labour.

The Settlement Support project in Waitakere is a result of collaboration by the agencies contributing to the ‘New Out West’ Settlement Support project. New Out West is a Waitakere network of local government, central government and community representatives prioritising settlement issues that need to be resolved.

Contributing agencies to New Out West include Waitakere City Council (lead agency), WADCOSS, Citizens Advice, West Auckland ESOL Home Tutors Association, Waitakere WEA, Work and Income, Human Rights Commission, Auckland DHB, RMS Refugee Resettlement, Department, Refugees as Survivors, Migrant Liaison Inland Revenue, Office of Ethnic Affairs, Waitakere Community Law Service, NZ Police, Refugees as Survivors, Housing NZ.

“Coordination and collaboration are major priorities. The agencies in the city have been networking to maximise their effectiveness, work through funding needs and priorities,” says Deputy Mayor Carolynne Stone.

The City’s settlement issues include:

Refugee resettlement: This is a standing agenda item at New Out West. Last year, resettlement at Waitakere City increased significantly due to the need to house Burundian refugees. Housing refugees is an ongoing challenge involving both Housing NZ and the private sector. Inter-agency planning has begun looking six months ahead to where refugees are to be housed.

Mental Health support in the community: There is a need for counselling services once refugees leave Mangere. Problems with transportation and childcare contribute to depression, isolation and unemployment if people are not able to move around. Assessment of needs is ongoing with community groups (Massey – Burundian, New Lynn – Afghan, New Lynn temple – Burmese). A Waitakere City Council pilot project aims to teach members of the Burundian and Somali communities to drive.

Neighbour support: Neighbours play an important role in supporting refugee families as volunteer workers, who often work full-time, are not always available in the event of a crisis or in everyday situations which are unfamiliar.

Waitakere Libraries and Information Services have a migrant information coordinator and a multicultural librarian. The Libraries have published a guide for migrants and refugees. A copy of the New Settlers’ Guide is given to every new arrival and is available on the Council’s website www.waitakere.govt.nz. For this year’s Census on March 7, there will be census forms available from libraries in 20 languages.

Waitakere Ethnic Board provides a voice for the City’s growing population of migrants and refugees. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the WEB and the Council last year.

Migrant and refugee links with Maori culture are encouraged through the City’s commitment to its Tangata Whenua. Migrants and refugees are encouraged to attend Open Marae at Hoani Waititi on Waitangi Day and Race relations Day.

The Settlement Support coordinator acts as a broker to strengthen existing connections and develop new connections between service providers, new settlers and host communities. The Settlement Support Adviser, supported by Citizens Advice Bureaux volunteers provides a “face to face” new point of contact for new settlers.

Settlement Support will meet a gap identified as a priority through New Out West for a neutral first point of contact to support new settlers.

ENDS



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